segunda-feira, 9 de janeiro de 2017

Keep Calm, It's Winter

Winter season is here and there is need to panic! Sorry, there is no need to panic, I'm still getting used to the European winter, so sometimes it's hard not to panic with the low temperatures.

Speaking of low temperatures it is the "real feel" that really matters. I am currently living in Porto, Portugal, a country known for having a more pleasant winter. Does it? No one tells you that it is very windy in the North of Portugal, which considerably lowers the temperature and also the way you you feel it. Plus, the beautiful old tiled houses are not prepared for winter. Most of them do not have thermal insulation and central heating. That means, when it's cold outside, it's cold inside. At least this is what I am facing living here. But, let's come back to the cold winter feel in general.

What can you do to keep calm during winter? 

Warm layers of clothing and fluffy comforters are top priorities! Buying a radiator and taking hot showers also help. Spending your day in the kitchen cooking and baking and drinking coffee or tea is great. But! There's always a but. The cold season lasts a while and all these layers of clothing and hot showers will make your hair and skin miserable.

You do need to have a few items on your bathroom counter ready to use, whether you are a man or a woman.

From the top. Hair. Oh gosh your hair will suffer! I tried, believe me, many times to avoid washing my hair with hot water. Cold water. Warm water. And then comes the hair drier. In the end your split ends have split ends! So, I highly recommend  some type of hair product for you to use on your wet hair before using the hair drier. I use a few drops of an oil that hydrates and helps to avoid frizzy hair. My hair is way better now. But if you can spend some time in a hair saloon for some deep care, even better!

Next, face. Never hot water. It's very bad for your face skin, it may give you pimples, it can peel off, rashes can appear, it can be extra oily... I know it's hard to wash your face while freezing your hands, but it's worth it. I wash it with a face soap and use face cream everyday. Lip balm is also a great ally for chapped lips. Result? Peachy silky face.

Body. Take a shower, use a full body cream (I mean it), wear fresh clothes. Moving on.

Feet. Clean socks and shoe powder. Don't neglect your feet! They end up spending months without seeing any ray of light or the sun, they deserve your attention, unless you're happy hosting a colony of fungus between your toes.

Cats and seagulls (such European animals!) disappear during winter, they also want to keep calm and warm. So make sure you follow these tips so you don't hibernate and are still able to keep calm, warm and smooth during the cold season.

Do you have any other tips? Please share them in the comments!

quarta-feira, 30 de novembro de 2016

3 things for my future bucket list

On my previous post I shared with you 3 things on my travel bucket list I have already done. On this one I will share 3 things and only 3, although the list is bigger, I haven't done yet.

I must say that I don't put a limit to when I need to check an item off  my travel bucket list, just as long as I plan well enough to someday conquer this travel dream.

1. Road trip across the USA: this is an old one. One of my biggest travel dreams and yet to be fulfilled. So, why haven't I done this yet? I still haven't finished planning! Sometimes, I say I need a month to do it, sometimes I say, "To hell with it, I'm gonna stay the whole 3 months I am allowed in the country!". I have drafted dozens of itineraries. From New York to California is my first option, but then what about Key West?, and Route 66?, I may drop by Montreal, I also should go up to Seattle, but if I am already there I can also visit Vancouver and once in Vancouver, why not go all the way to Alaska? Do you see my dilemma? I want to visit all the states and maybe more! Of course that when I am planning these itineraries I never think about how much money I would actually have to spend in one month road tripping across the USA. And it's a lot! Back to the list... but one day it will become a reality.  Then I will definitely write a huge post about it!

2. Italy from North to South: oh Italy... a place I have never been to but would love to spend a long time there. I want to visit Italy from North to South, South to North. Don't know exactly why I would love to go to Italy this bad, but there is something about the food, the language, the monuments that attract me. 

3. Giraffe Manor Hotel: this is a very recent item that went to my travel bucket list. Have you ever seen those pictures or videos of giraffes sticking their heads into windows and people feeding them? I thought this was a type of photoshopped picture, but it isn't! The giraffes stick their heads into windows at the Giraffe Manor Hotel in Kenya. How cool is that?! And you can also see Pumba from the Lion King in the hotel. Ok, not actually Pumba, but this is how I'm gonna call them! Staying at this hotel is definitely not for the budget traveler that I am, but this is the reason why I have a savings account! 

Here you have 3 very different places on my travel bucket list yet to fulfilled: the USA, Italy and Kenya. Don't know long it's going to take me to one day check them off my list, but it doesn't matter, planning is also part of the fun. In these 3 places what I want the most is to collect amazing and unforgettable experiences. You know that book "Eat, Pray, Love"? This will be my Drive, Eat, Relax type of travel!

segunda-feira, 7 de novembro de 2016

Travel Bucket List: done it!

I took this picture of the airplane wing when I was flying somewhere. A classic! And when is the best time to think about your next trip if not when you are coming back home? Exactly, we, born travelers, just never stop thinking where we're going next. We must have a list! A travel bucket list! And we must stick to it, because this list will probably never end, the more we travel the more places we want to go!

That's why I decided to share with you 3 things on my travel bucket list that I have already done! Hard to choose only 3, but these 3 took me a lot of planning and daydreaming to achieve, which makes them even more special. Someday I'll share my entire bucket list with you, then you can also tell me yours!

Guimarães Castle
Starting with the most recent one: entering a castle. I'm from Brazil, no castles there. And when I say castle, I mean a medieval castle with those square spaces; which, by the way, now I learned its proper name 'battlement' (an indented parapet at the top of a wall with alternating merlons and crenels for decoration or defense). So, that's it. Bucket list: castle battlements! 
When I knew I was going to Portugal, I saw a big opportunity to see these types of castles. I saw two in the Lisbon area before visiting the Castle of Guimarães, in the north of Portugal. But this one, I entered! The admittance fee was €2, though it's only the walls and towers, I was extatic. I was there for the battlements! I was inside a real castle! Full of history! Medieval! Bucket list: check!  

In 2015, after much planning and daydreaming like I told you the beginning, the trip to Ushuaia, in Argentina, finally got off the paper into reality. It would become an unforgettable family vacation to the end of the world. Plus, I would celebrate my birthday there!

Ushuaia, The end of the World!
This quaint little town had been on my bucket list for quite some time, and it did not let me down. We went during spring, and the weather was perfect. It even snowed! It is a very windy city, so my purple jacket wasn't enough. 
We took walks in the city, went on a boat tour where we saw sea lions at their natural habitat, we also went all the way to the Beagle Channel and got the chance to get off on an isolated little island in the middle of nowhere. To be this connected to nature brings you an enormous sense of joy! Plus, we rented a car and went all the way to the end of Route 3, which starts in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and a little more than 3,000 km later ends in Bahia Lapataia in Ushuaia. Oh, I almost forgot to mention about my birthday there. We simply celebrated it on the Martial Mountain, having a fantastic overview of the city and a snow cake!

Curação, Kenepa Grande Beach
Number 3 on my bucket list is the Dutch Caribbean! In 2014 I crossed off my travel bucket list the island of Curação, in South America. My husband and I spent our honeymoon there, and I must say we made an excellent choice. I remember when I arrived at the hotel, I told the receptionist that I would like to see everything I saw on Google images and she smiled at me. And it was even better!
The surprise of seeing the color of the water from up close, the touch of sand in your feet, the hot pleasant weather, the fish not being scared of you at all, the warm evenings, the colorful houses in the city, one beach trying to be even more beautiful than the other... I would definitely go back again!

So here I shared with you 3 things on my travel bucket list I have done: the castle, the end of the world, the crystalline waters. What did you write on your travel bucket list the past 3 years? 

segunda-feira, 31 de outubro de 2016

Street Art: Porto, Portugal

picture taken in the city of Aveiro, north of Portugal 

In 2014 the city of Porto created a program to allow street artists to use specific walls or spaces and abandoned houses transforming them with urban art. Since then, graffiti and other interventions alike have been seen as art, and their authors artists. Tourists from all over the world are drawn to Porto street art, which led to street art tours.


The free street art tours have maps and guides. Your guide can be a student from the Visual Arts School or the street artist himself. The tours have a specific date and time, but nothing keeps you from doing it on your own. 

power box

power box

Palácio de Cristal
Before I heard there was a program allowing the artists to use some specific public spaces, I just thought how fun and creative those interventions were. With my camera at hand I started shooting the arts that most caught my attention. However, if you take one of the tours you will be able to find some hidden street art really worth seeing. Remember you have to be into those things, otherwise you'll just say it's vandalism.

Jardim das Virtudes
Unfortunately, Porto does have plenty of vandalism, which is sad to see, but don't mistake a rebel prick for an urban street artist. The artists have many techniques and a story to tell behind every mural, besides, many of them are really making a living out of it. 

So, jump on this photo safari in Porto with its giant murals, funny art ideas, power boxes turned into paintings and so much more!

Sé area

Sé area
Sé area

sexta-feira, 28 de outubro de 2016

The world in your kitchen

Maybe I've watched way too many movies, but I believe life could be more fun if we had our own soundtrack, playing at all memorable times.

I decided to give this a try. In the kitchen. So far, I've been transported to so many places, just because I've been playing traditional songs from where my cooking was from.

Sometimes we don't have enough money or time to go on vacation or maybe just take a couple of days off, but we do eat everyday, and we can bring the world to our kitchen in a very simple way.

So, how do you do that? First, decide on what type of food you would like to prepare. By the way, this post works better if you're having a homecooked meal, it's the whole experience involved that counts. Are you in the mood for Italian, Chinese, French or Indian? I'm not a professional cook, and I don't know all the tricks, but online recipes and videos are there to help us!

Once you have decided which dish to prepare, make sure you have all the right ingredients, check the expiration date, and servings. Leave them all on your counter, including scale, knives, spoons, and whatever else you might need.

Time to be transported to another country! Go on Youtube and type: "French songs for cooking", "Italian songs for cooking", "instrumental Greek songs for cooking"..., you got the picture. You'll find many videos with these themes, some of them are 3o minutes and others 3 hours, only intrumental (my favorite!) or with singers.

Press play and enjoy! In seconds you'll immediately start feeling you are in Portugal preparing a delicious bowl of soup, or in Italy having the best pasta ever, or in India with that wonderful smell of curry, or in France while you cook and take sips of wine, the world is in your own kitchen and everybody can smell it!

Music and smells are memory triggers, when we combine them we create a whole different experience in the kitchen. Cooking something new can be challenging, and a background song can also help soothe you and create a nice atmosphere. And don't stop the music when you're done, keep playing it for you or your guests; you may be at your kitchen or dining room, but that food with that song, will definitely make you feel you are at a bistro, tavern, pub, coffee house... All of a sudden, with no big expenses, you just brought the world to your kitchen!

pst: all the pictures are mine, and I cooked those delicious foods while listening to my cooking playlist!

sexta-feira, 14 de outubro de 2016

How to contribute to the traveler's community

I used to use all tools at my disposal to do my travel research: books, internet, apps, social media and also simply asking people. However, I never gave them anything in return! So, I started to share my feedback with other travelers. Here is how I did it and how you can do it, too!

One of the best tools for travelers, in my opinion, to search for hotels, flights, tours and sightseeing, is definitely TripAdvisor. Be it the desktop version or the mobile one, it has never let me down. One of the reasons that make it an excellent resource for travelers is that it is full of updated feedback!

I used to read all the other travelers' opinions and that was it, thanks. Nowadays, I am also a contributor, I have a badge and everything! I share my feedback, pictures and also click on the like button if another traveler's feedback has helped me. I try to share what would be nice for the other visitor to know. "Beautiful", is not the feedback I need, "Beautiful place to relax and low budget cafeteria nearby but don't forget to bring a jacket because it can be a little chilly up there", this is helpful feedback! So, please, do share your feedback, I need to know if it's chilly so I can bring my purple jacket. :) 

What about Youtube videos, huh? I'm sure you have already checked on "how to" something. Taking the subway in NYC, packing for Ryanair, ferry to Ireland, the list is huge!

Maybe now you're thinking: no, no, no, I'm too shy, I'm not going to do videos! But, here's the thing, if you simply click on the like button, you're already helping other travelers, because then we'll all know that it's a helpful video with good content just by the number of likes. And if you keep watching the videos from the same channel, what about subscribing to it? You'll be sending positive feedback to the vlogger and to her/his subscribers. That way everybody will try to keep doing a good job, it's a win-win situation. Maybe later, you'll decide to have your own travel channel on Youtube, sharing your own experieces, you never know...

In the world of selfies, sometimes there's just too much ego for such a breathtaking scenery. Try taking pictures from different angles. All kinds of pictures: landscapes, what's in front of you, behind you, between trees, the reflection on a pond, the possibilities are infinite. Even selfies nowadays, travelwise, are broadening the angles: eyes, arms and feet are just some of the selfies we've been seeing around. 

Wanna help the traveler's community? Go after the secret spots! Find the photographer in you! Maybe it's Mickey's reflection on your sunglasses, the Statue of Liberty seen by a tourist cell phone, not to mention those beautiful sunrays going through a famous monument. All I am saying is: explore!

Ultimately, your traveling experience can lead you to what I am doing right now: blogging! If you are anything like me, before traveling you make a ton of research, which is also exciting, you check tripadvisor, you watch youtube videos, check some online pictures, read articles and posts. So, why not also write your own post afterwards? Well, this is what I'm doing, giving back to the community all the free and wonderful advice other travelers have shared and which have helped me prepare a more informative travel project.

Once I saw a phrase on the internet, sorry I don't know the author, which described the whole traveling feeling in one single short sentence, and this is the one I chose to end this post with: "Traveling makes you speechless, then turns you into a story teller". Do tell! 

segunda-feira, 3 de outubro de 2016

A glimpse of Paris

Oh Paris! 

Paris! So close and yet so far!
I've always wondered... what does France have that makes everybody falls in love with it?

My first time in France was to do volunteer work in the country side, around 4 hours away from Paris, in a city called Chateauroux. There I thought, can it get Frenchier than this? People leaving boulangeries with baguettes and croissants, milk stands in front of the local markets, stone wall houses and large green fields with sheep grazing. I was already enchantée!

My husband and I planned that to when we left our volunteering in Chateauroux we would spend a few hours in Paris before taking our flight back home. We would have four hours to spare, sounded good enough to snap some pictures of the Eiffel tower.

But, here's what happened: it rained. A lot! It rained so much that days later Paris was flooded. You'll probably remember watching it on the news... Well, our plans went down the drain. Ironic, right?

Did we get to see Paris and eat macaroons? Unfortunately no. And yet, that city was growing on me. I was never one of those girls who kept dreaming of Paris and being all romantic about it. I would just like to travel there someday. But the moment I saw half of the Arc du Triomphe, something clicked. The streets, the bars, the gardens... all... so... French! I felt in love with it immediately! And that from the bus windown! 

Is there something in the air in Paris? Was it the rain that made everything more nostalgic and classic? Or is it the language? All of a sudden I wanted to watch Amelie Poulain and Chanel, and I was missing an Edith Piaf music soundtrack while my eyes tried to catch a glimpse of every little detail of the city through the windown.

It can also be because I was so close to visiting Paris, but couldn't, the pouring rain wouldn't allow us this time. 

And I kept thinking about the answer to my previous question: Why does everybody love Paris? Why was I in love with Paris?

I still don't know the answer but I wouldn't mind going back there over and over again to try to find out. I need a second date.

sexta-feira, 30 de setembro de 2016

LELLO Bookshop: booklovers unite!

Lonely Planet and The Guardian considered Lello bookshop the third most beautiful bookshop in the world and it sure deserves to be on that list!

I don't mind visiting bookshops when I am out, not only traveling but in my own city too. There's something magical when you enter a bookshop or a library. I guess it's a feeling that all the wisdom in the world is on the pages of those books right in front of you.

Lello & Irmão (Lello&Brother) has been open since 1906 and much thought was put into it, from books to architeture. The fact that it has been an inspiration for acclaimed authors like J.K.Rowling is no secret and I would dare to say that many travelers put this bookshop on their travel bucket list because of that.

There is a € 3 entrance fee that is fully discounted if you purchase a book, plus you get a map of the bookshop with some curiosities. It gets around 4,000 visitors a day from around the world, and lines can be long at any time of year, though  inside Lello it is never crowded.

It sells around 5,000 books per week! 

On the top shelves behind closed glass doors there are rare books and first editions. You feel you are being transported to another era just by looking at them and imagining all the acclaimed authors who have their first editions in there! A feeling that maybe only booklovers will understand and share. By the way, every single person who enters Lello smiles! It's amazing to see. Of course I know this because this happened to me, so I started looking at people as they entered to see if I was the only one.

If architecture is also your thing, the red stairs are a big deal, and again an inspiration for the Harry Potter stories. If you are able to get a picture of you at the stairs without no one else photobombing it, consider yourself a lucky booklover.

In July of this year, 2016, the bookshop was under restoration for 4 months to receive its original façade color and clean stained glass ceiling to celebrate its 110 years. It was and still is stunning!

With its anniversary, Lello Bookshop was chosen to be the host for the worldwide book release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I took this picture about one hour before the release, and all the fans, visitors and travelers were there in front of the small two-story bookshop just waiting for Lello to open its doors again, after the 4 month period. The excitement was so strong that it felt like it was opening for the very first time.

Lello bookshop definitely deserves a visit. From booklovers to tourists I guarantee everybody will have fun browsing (and maybe buying) books, having a cup of coffee, buying a souvenir or just feeling closer to Harry Potter.

sexta-feira, 23 de setembro de 2016

Weird things I learnt backpacking

They may be funny or gross, but 100% true!

1. Pee standing: ok, I'm a girl, I sit! But the restrooms are most of the times dirty, or smelly or simply without a toilet seat. So, I saw myself obliged to learn how to pee standing, or better yet, half way up. Not very worthy of a lady, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

2. Can't watch a movie outdoors because it's freaking cold even in the summer: summer events are great in Europe, but one needs to understand what summer feels like in Europe. I'm still adapting to the hot months (bear in mind that my benchmark for summer is Brazil) and learning to enjoy myself outside when it is 25 degrees (not my idea of "oh, so hot"), but when the temperature drops to 16 at night and there is an outdoor-movie event... I'm sorry, maybe I'll enjoy it next time...

3. You find new uses for things: this is the best one. How creative can one get when one doesn't have that many options. Here's an example: I turned a coffee filter into a napkin and a snack wraper. I recommend it!

4. You'll be hungry more times than you can possibly imagine: boy, this one is hard! You're backpacking, eager to learn, visit and taste new things. But in my case, learning and visiting are on top of my list, and I end up neglecting the eating part. In all my trips I remember starving at some point. That's why now I know, I always have to carry some type of snack with me.

5. Rain water is drinkable...I think: you're thirsty, it's raining, you're wearing one of those disposable rain ponchos, nowhere to buy water at the moment. Well, just put your hands together under the poncho forming a bowl and there you go: a few sips of relief.

6. You'll miss wearing flip flops: you must wear comfortable shoes when backpacking, in fact, you must wear comfortable shoes all the time. But it comes a time that you are a little fed up of wearing socks and shoes, socks and shoes, socks and shoes. You'll definitely miss the flip flop toe-freedom.

7. You'll wear sneakers to the limit: a link to the one above. You WILL wear your sneakers to the limit. True story: after backpacking a little the latch from one of my sneakers got loose. I just kept wearing them and walking always making sure that it was still there. One day, as I was leaving the supermarket, I looked down and that was when I saw my bright yellow sock, no latch! I started laughing because it was so ridiculous! But ok, never mind, let's move on. Then, what do I see ahead, about 600 meters away from the market? My sneaker latch trying to cross the street! Just, pretended nothing was happening, I picked it up, and later at night my husband sewed it up for me. 

8. If you don't wash your undies everyday, you may one day end up not wearing any at all: I guess this topic doesn't need much development, but backpackers, bear in mind that: if you carry one piece of underwear to each day, that means 7, don't panic on Sunday evening saying that you don't have clean underwear to wear on Monday. To paraphrase Dory: just keep washing, just keep washing...

9. You'll say that things that cost more than 1 euro are expensive: backpackers are in their essence low budget travelers, that means every saving counts. Our eyes sparkle when we see things at the supermarket that cost cents!

10. You'll discover body odors you've never smelled before: backpackers walk a lot, repeat clothes a lot, wear the same jacket, buy cheap deodorants (please, don't do this), take public transportation... I'm sorry to tell you this but one day you'll discover body odors you've never smelled before.

Disgusting, right? I know...I told you things would be funny or gross, boys and girls. So, I'll give you a nice bonus one:

11. You'll learn to trust complete strangers: this is one of the nicest things that happen in the life of a backpacker, meeting new people and simply trusting them. They may want to get to know your story as much as you want to know theirs. They'll feed you, offer you rides, help you take the bus, and sometimes only smile acknowleding your presence. You'll learn to trust complete strangers and this will definitely change the way you look at people and the way you see the world.

quarta-feira, 21 de setembro de 2016

BERLIN: the tour for nerds

I am a huge fan of free walking tours! I started taking them more than six years ago and now when I am planning a trip one of the first things I research is: are there free walking tours?

They are usually in English, but some also offer it in Spanish, French or German upon group request. Many of them don't request reservation, just your punctuality at the meeting point. They guide you and your group, around 15 people, through the city's most important sights, and some hidden gems too, always full of information and curiosities. It usually takes 2 hours or more, with a short stop for coffee, and at the end of it you give them a tip if you think their tour was worth it. A little secret: it always is!

When my husband and I planned our trip to Berlin, we could only think about the history immersion we would have in such an important scenery of  World History, and a free walking tour, would be the best way to go.

It really is a tour for nerds, and if you are really into history, the free walking tour may even include a space for Q&A.

We decided to take Sandeman's New Berlin Free Tour. Our meeting point was in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Just by being there your mind starts to flash you images of how that space was during the Third Reich. Countless pictures and plenty of history from our guide Sam, who, by the way, has a PhD in History. How awesome is that?! We could listen to him for hours because he guided us in Berlin with a strong passion for what he was talking about.

Free Walking Tour in front of the Berlin Wall

In a little more than 3 hours we visited the Brandenburg Gate, Hitler's bunker, the Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, SS Headquarters, The Berlin Wall, the TV tower, Pariser Platz, Lufwaffle Headquarters and Humboldt University.

The experience of being at a place that staged so much history and tragedy is something that touches you. To see the Berlin Wall right there in front of you and to imagine how life was at that time is just impossible. Without a doubt being close to the Berlin Wall is an unforgettable experience. All the region of the Berlin Wall carries a sad, silent and respectful air. The Museum of Terror was built behind it, and when you're there you see many students of all ages, many tourists, and utter silence. Pictures, videos, texts, miniature models, newspaper clips and Hitler's voice giving speeches. To listen to that man's voice while you are in front of the Berlin Wall, brings you an indescribable feeling. You feel like you are mourning the people who had to live through that time while it's so hard to believe that that unfortunately happened.

Needless to say that that was the part of the tour that left a mark in me. Our guide said that Germans know what happenned and everything is still there to remind people that it is extremely important that we learn from the past. They built an underground memorial with a glass roof in front of the Humboldt University. The memorial is bookshelves with no books, because of the book burn that occured in 1933 when they burned 20 thousand books following Hitler's orders just because they weren't in the nazi's terms.

It really is a tour for nerds and I recommend you get to do as many tours as possible - there are others, but they're all paid; all on my list when I go back to Berlin. Then, on the next day I suggest that you pick your favorite stops and go again with free time to really dive in to history. 

So, that's it my fellow travelers, I hope I've inspired you to hop on a plane and go take a walking tour in Berlin!