Articoli

3 days of summer in Berlin

 

We left Berlin with the image of two young girls dancing to their own tune in the street outside the hotel: this is a good representation of Berlin’s essence, having this anti-capital feeling, calm with wide spaces, looking scrubby, alternative, young and free.

Besides this, Berlin is a concentrate of nineteenth century history having experienced some of the most insane moments of humanity – and maybe the reason why it couldn’t be more diverse today. Nazism, Cold War, and communism all had its part here and left a massive amount of footprints.

We didn’t have a roaming plan for Berlin, but we were actually intrigued by the ‘life in the districts’, in particular in gentrified districts that are now very popular.

On our fist afternoon we started from hip and arty area of Kreuzberg. The second day we walked through Berlin’s central area, from the Zoo through Tiergarten, Brandenburg Gate, Potsdamer Platz and up to Mitte. In Alexanderplatz we went on the TV tower to enjoy the view from the top. On our last day we got confident enough about cycling and after joining an underground tour of Berlin, we spent time in Prezlauer Berg, Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg.

Here’s our favourite bits and pieces.

summer in berlin

Couldn’t be more obvious? Summer in Berlin is gorgeous. The city is green, you can spend time at a cafe, in a beer garden, or simply relaxing in the shade at a park. We left Bergamo longing for temperature below 30 degrees and that’s exactly what we found. The days were sunny, the evenings fresh and soft.

cycling

This is one of the most fun aspects. Everybody cycles, there are cycling lane almost everywhere, and traffic lights for cyclists only. Luca kept riding in the middle of the lane blissfully, while I kept screaming pointlessly ‘stay on the right!!!’. Still, it felt amazing.

berlin UNDERGROUND

This underground tour – Berliner Unterwelten was suggested by friends. It took us underground in what was converted into an atomic bunker during Cold War. The tour is incredibly informative and highly recommended.

KREUZBERG, PREZLAUER BERG, FRIEDRICHSHAIN

These are some really cool districts that have mainly been gentrified. The first, Kreuzberg, still holds a scruffy look with graffiti covering main door entrances, and people still living in caravans reminding of the eastern squats. It has many cafes and restaurant and it’s definitely enjoyable to spend time in.

Prezlauer Berg is a lovely neighborhood, and where my friend Christina lives: large and leafy roads surrounded by greenery, spotted by cafes, restaurants and all you could need. A family friendly area that’s calm and cheerful.

Lastly, Friedrichshain, is the go-to night place. Here you can find the most famous clubs in Berlin, and Europe, lots of bars, little shops and youngsters. In addition you can visit the East Side Gallery, the remaining 1 km of former wall.

EATING OUT

There’s all sort of great food in Berlin, it feels like an affordable food mecca, where you can have a meal with 10-14 euro per person. And of course you have to taste Berlin currywust once at least. On our first night we went to Turkish Hasir in Kreuzberg: it’s an institution for huge and tasty kebabs and what not – we were not disappointed. On our second night we had dinner at Vietnamese Vibes in Prezlauer Berg. We loved the food, and the drinks were simply amazing. On our last night we ate at recommended Moroccan restaurant in Kreuzberg called Baraka, and literally devoured a platter in 5 minutes, despite mentioning not being hungry at all…!

AT LAST, MEETING UP WITH A LONG TIME FRIEND

We’ve know each other for over a decade, managing to meet only once in two years of so… nonetheless, every time we happen to do so, it feels like those desperate au-pair days in Brittas Bay, Ireland! Time has definitely passed, but it’s always a joy to reunite with this lovely soul.

 

 

Berlin, Germany’s polite Punk

Berlin is a city able to react, to adapt and overcome obstacles. Berlin is like a young man finding problems on his doorsteps that he didn’t cause.

After the utopian omnipotence of a miserable man, with the skills to speak to the masses and leverage on populism, and after a second world conflict where Berlin was at the center of attention, the post-war didn’t necessarily translate in a time of economic and social growth.

The liberators became the invaders, or occupiers, of a poor and exhausted East Berlin, while West Berlin was the last European democratic outpost in suffocating USSR.

It’s very hard to imagine a wall dividing a city, friendships, hearts. Why nobody stood in the way when they were building it? (pointless question). 150 km of wall, a barrier to freedom, the Cold War getting more real and the world on the brink of atomic collapse. Go for a guided tour in the atomic bunkers underground and you’ll understand what we risked, and what could have happened.

Berlin is a polite punk running away from old-fashioned parents, but also a clean punk with a sense of civic-duty: I’ve seen people picking up other people’s bottle from the street here and there.

Now Berlin is a city that’s very much alive, yet full of contrasts. It’s a growing town, with fascinating districts, Kreuzberg with its graffiti, the clubs and night-life of Friedrichshain, and other residential areas more apt for family life.

Do go to Berlin, you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

What to do on a weekend in Tolmin

This time we spent a long weekend with friends in Slovenia, an Italian neighbour we know too little about.

We visited Triglav National Park, on the western side of Slovenia, nearby the Italian border. It took us about 5 hours to get there from Bergamo. The mountains of this park belong to the Alps, with the highest pick of Triglav reaching almost 3.000 meters. There are many options here: from trekking to kayaking, cycling, paragliding etc.

 

 

This is also a trip that brought us to the past, back to the Great War of 1914-1917, when young people had no choice but dying on the Soca Valley’s mountains.

We stopped for lunch in Kobarid (Caporetto) and we visited the Italian war memorial dedicated to the people who lost their lives battling against the Austro-Hungarian army on 24th October 1917.

This was the worst defeat inflicted to Italians in history. There are 7.000 corpses in the memorial. Walking around this place made us stop and think about a whole generation swept away by war, reconsidering how lucky we are.

Leaving Kobarid, we finally get to Ciginj, next to Tolmin, where we booked our accommodation. We stayed in a beautifully renovated barn which was perfect for the 4 of us.

Tolmin Gorge

In the afternoon we decide to visit the famous Tolmin Gorge, which is just 15 mins away by car. It’s a pristine place where nature amazes. The path, on a round circuit, is well thought of, and fairly easy. It takes about 1 hour and a half to visit the Gorge. At the park entry you can get tickets. They’ll give you a map, and explain how the walking path develops.

After we get back from the Gorge, we have dinner at Okrepčevalnica Tolminska korita, where we are positively surprised by the good quality of food.

Lake Bohinj

The second day we go to lake Bohinj, the largest of Slovenia. By car it takes about 1 hour and a half, taking the only road, slow and windy, going up the mountains.

The path develops around an immaculate nature, where you can stop for a picnic, or you can swim in summer. It takes about 3 hours to walk around its 12 km of length.

In the evening we are back in Tolmin and we decide to continue our culinary journey in another local restaurant, also famous for its fried fish: Slavečki Stjepan, in Zatolmin. Once again, we aren’t disappointed neither with the quality nor with the modest price.

Javorka: memorial church and trekking

On our third day we are looking for a trekking in Tolmin, so we stop by the tourist office for information. They suggest visiting the Church of the Holy Spirit, and a trekking around the mountains of Tolminka river.

The instructions are simple to follow. You get to the church parking at Srednjica Alpine pasture and walking up the hill (20 mins). This church was built by the Austro-Hungarian, commemorating the 2.564 victims during the Great War. It’s considered the finest monument to World War I in the territory of Slovenia, and you can tell why as you get there, it’s impressive inside and outside. It’s open only on weekends so they gave us the key to get inside, being a Monday. Yes, you got it right, they gave us the massive key church!

Back to the parking spot, we reach Polog Alpine pasture and we start the trekking there. At the first junction we turn right towards Prode pasture. We cross the river on the so-called ‘kurukula‘, a sort of cable car by hand – lots of fun there. We continuo to Planina pod Osojnico pasture. On the other side we take the easy mule trail taking us back to the starting point. The itinerary the tourist office gave us is easy to follow, see the introduction and leaflet.

At the beginning of the walk you can also visit a war bunker that you’ll find on the way. It’s open to the public and you only need a torch to be able to visit it.

The trekking, of medium to low level, takes about 2 and a half hours. Landscape wise it’s varied with alpine pastures, river Tolminka, green woods, and scenic mountains slopes.

The next day we leave Slovenia stopping by The Kobarid Museum on the way back. This museum is dedicated to World War I, in particular to the battle between the Austro-Hungarian and the Italians starting off on 24th October 2017 when the Italians had a disastrous retreat. Once again, we stop and think about the horror and futility of wars, and this one in particular, that took place in the mountains of the emerald Soca Valley.

 

Visiting London in a week-end for the first time

Here’s how we made the most of our weekend in London. We arrived on Thursday night and left at lunch-time on Sunday. This itinerary is great for those visiting London for the first time but also eager to experience something more typically Londoner than only its famous touristy spots.

Valeria lived in London for years, so she knows pretty well her way around it.

1 – Arrival

Arrival in the evening, stay at apartment/hotel. We stayed here at Sophie’s, in the heart of Angel/Islington which was perfect for 2 couples.

2 – From Tower Pier, to the Parliament and Oxford Circus

Take the Original Tour, or any other tourist buses or public buses, and tour around London to eventually get off at Tower Pier. Here get on a boat and get off at Charing Cross Pier. Walk around Embankment, the Parliament and Big Ben, then take Whitehall, where you’ll find Downing Street no. 10 on your left, and arrive to Trafalgar Square. Continue to Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, and Oxford Circus. Take a tube or Uber to Camden Town to check out the foumous Camden Market, or go shopping in Oxford Street/Bond Street.

3 – Portobello Road, Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace

On Saturday it’s great starting off at Portobello Road Market for plenty of street food, or a lovely brunch in one of the many cafes. Valeria’s favourites are Cafe 202, and Granger & Co, although it always has a long queue.

When it’s warm enough, consider renting one of London’s bikes around the Portobello/Ladbroke Grove/Notting Hill area. You can cycle from there until the bike stand nearby Whole Foods Market in Kensington, where you can buy some food for a picnic in Hyde Park!

Alternatively, from the Portobello area, walk all the way to Trafalgar Square. It might seem a long walk but actually, done little by little, it’s very enjoyable. From Portobello go through Notting Hill Gate and walk towards Hyde Park. Approaching Hyde Park and Kensington Palace, take Kensington Palace Garden, where all the embassies are. There are patrolled gates on both ends of the road, making it perfect for pedestrians, or those cycling.

After the park, either go to Harrods, or to the Natural History Museum. Later, walk to Buckingham Palace, and reach Trafalgar Square where you can also visit the National Gallery. Museums are free in London which is pretty special.

In the evening, dine at a gastropub, or watch a musical in the West End.

4 – Columbia Road Flower Market through the canals

Take the footpath on the canal around Angel and reach Columbia Road Flower Market on foot. You’ll find plenty of flower stalls making you feel like taking everything with you for how fresh and gorgeous the flowers look! Towards the end of the market you’ll also find some food stalls where you can have a quick bite.

It’s already time to return home unfortunately..! Take a Uber back to your apartment/room, or go back straight to the airport.

Budget

London can get very expensive on a weekend, although it varies depending on where you decide to stay and eat. We decided to share an apartment and ate in mid-range restaurants. In terms of transports, being 4 people, we chose Uber over the tube most times. Overall, it came up to around 400 euro per person, excluding flights. Half the budget went into the accommodation, the rest for transports and food.

Transports

The easiest and cheapest way to move around London is by public transports, tube and bus. There are many options in terms of tickets, but the most convenient is using Oyster Card, a magnetic card that you can use on all transports, ferry included, and work as ‘pay as you go’. With an Oyster Card you top up a certain amount of money that will be deducted as you use the transport system by ‘touching in’. The maximum amount that will be taken for limitless use in zone 1-2 is £6.60 per day. It works this way: money will be deducted for each single journey every time you touch in, until you reach the £6.60 cap. An ordinary daily ticket will instead cost you £12.30, so you can see how this it’s more convenient.

You can buy an Oyster in one of the main tube stations in London during the day. Alternatively, you can also buy it online beforehand to save time and hassle. If you do so, order it well in advance to avoid problems with the delivery. For 3-4 days get a £30 card.

Tips

Try an English gastropub for dinner, we went to Riverford at The Duke of Cambridge nearby our apartment.

London is the most happening place in Europe in terms of musicals and theatre offering: definitely go for it! You can book in advance online, and although the best prices are for week shows and matinees, you can still find good deals on weekends. Another option is checking out last-minute theatre deals in person, at the Tkts ticket booth in Leicester Square. The best discounts are on the day of the performance.

 

 

My ex London

Every time I go back to London, it feels like meeting up with an ex. It’s awkward at first, then something clicks and you I’m drawn by what charmed me when we first met. For a moment I think something is still there, music starts playing. Ultimately, I understand I’m are either a different person, or I simply remember too well all that I don’t really like about it.

Indeed we have shared a prolonged engagement. I have been seduced by the language, the culture, the amazing melting pot, the intricateness of the stories of the souls that arrive and leave like falling leaves in autumn.

I moved to London when I was 20, bursting with energy and ready to take it all. I wanted fight, to find my own way and create a new life for myself. I met more people that I currently recollect, and I never felt as lonely as surrounded by the crowds. Life in the city has been as exciting as alienating, to finally become balanced and stable.

For a person that loves travelling, it’s where it feels natural to be. A myriad of nationalities, languages, customs and oddities come together. English culture as contour, but in reality, it’s a constant interaction between continents: from India to Europe, taking a detour to Australia, glimpsing a bit of Africa and breathing Atlantic breezes.

To me, London is the most cosmopolitan town in Europe, with plenty of stories to tell. A once was capital of the largest empire in history, to a country that is still struggling to find its own modern identity. And please forgive me London, I forgot to say you are pretty, and indeed prettier than Paris.

The outcome of this is somewhat scruffy and colourful, democratic and inclusive: how can you not feel free in such a context? But just at first. Later on, you realise that for such complexity to coexist, there is a lot of polite exclusion and class divergence between the lines. Despite superficially welcoming all visitors, in the long run London reminds you too well you don’t quite fully belong there.

Somehow, the electoral Brexit results have been anticipated in my stomach, and one day I woke up and I knew that between London and me it was over. Shockingly, for the fist time in my life, I desired returning home.

For sure, over the years, priorities have changed. Things I could have never imagined wanting, are now at the hearth of how I decide to live my life: better quality of life, family around. But I also know that what felt amazing 10 years ago, turned, slowly, into something I started to despise. The tube, the crowds, the weather, how easy it was to meet people and forget about them.

At a certain time, London felt like a city of the 20 something, to a point that it became weird. Even if there were other age groups around me, somehow they still acted just like ‘us’. They still shared apartments and rooms, considering whether to stay or to go back, they still got wasted on weekends. As if they were frozen in their 20s, condemned to live like this over, and over, again.

What got me out of London, though, was the awareness I didn’t belong. I didn’t feel any ancestral connection to the place after all, and I realised I was only a temporary guest. In the meantime, my dad got sick so I felt the urge of re-connecting to those roots that were at my very core.

Now that I re-visited London over a lovely weekend with Luca, his father and companion, I know London it’s still the same old town with the same old tune: instead, I’m the one who changed. Despite this I look at London with great affection for all that we shared, as little by little it became part of who I am.

 

 

Turning 60 in London

A trip with special people. The first flight, the first visit abroad and a birthday to celebrate: all this in 64 hours.

I wished my dad’s 60th birthday was special, simple people feel intense emotions, bringing my dad and his partner to London was simple, but believe me, very emotional.

We worked hard so that his partner could see a European town, something she dreamed about for a long time.

They were looking around, studying, getting excited, asking questions, just like kids eager to learn. For them everything was new: the language, the culture. Yet, they managed to deal with it well and were left with more energy compared to us!

We visited London with one of the typical tours, The Original Tour, and we showed them the attractions this magically hectic city offers.

Based on their request we took them to Buckingham Palace, where they got disappointed, just like we expected, seeing a massive grey building, the same colour of its city’s sky.

Things got better though. Trafalgar Square was closed due to a protest against the NHS, and in this surreal atmosphere, like Vanilla Sky the movie, we watched the changing of the guards at the Horse Guard Museum. We saw two adolescents getting ecstatic. My dad’s eyes were the ones of a happy child, his partner was filming everything, including the spectators heads.

I don’t want to talk about London, it’s a place that most people already know, but I’d like to suggest a few great picks that Vale had prepared for us thanks to her years as Londoner.

Brunch at Cafe 202 in Notting Hill. Industrial design meets fashion, medium prices, fast service, great plates of food with British classics and interesting re-visitations.

Dinner at Riverford at The Duke of Cambridge, in Islington, the only organic pub in Britain. Pillars of English cuisine such as duck and lamb, as well as Middle Eastern inspired options like humus, or African couscous. Excellent quality of produce, easy-going environment, popular between locals spending their night playing cards over a drink or two. Medium price range of about 30 euro each excluding wine/beer.

Walking on London’s canals, and Columbia Road Flower Market on Sunday morning: you’ll be charmed by this place. Since we stayed at Airbnb rental in Angel, we got there directly on foot, grabbing breakfast in one of the cafes on the way.

As usual the weather and the sky of my beloved Northern Europe has given its best, with 4 seasons in 24 hours, something more to experience for our travel companions.

Overall, I spent 3 intense days, happy and carefree.

I was looking at my dad adapting, what men can do best, and at last, I saw a man away from work, that has taken away a bit of his life. I was noticing TRAVELLING, this amazing passion and attitude of Vale and I, opening up his eyes and enriching the soul, like only the world seen from a different perspective can do.

I saw a person struggling with her personal health battle, to make a dream come true, and it was priceless.

I travelled with all my family for the first time of my life and it has been a unique experience.

Thank you Vale.

 

 

London

Discovering the Langhe for the first time

Sometimes the last thing you get to visit is actually standing right next to you. You chase what’s on the other side of the world, when you finally realise there are gems sitting 3.5 hours driving away.

This is kind of what happened with this wine region in Piedmont, Italy, stretching from Alba down to Liguria. It was about time to thick this off our list and see with our own eyes.

We spent a special weekend between hilly hamlets, sunny skies, and villages that are more known to international tourism, than they are to Italians.

We went to the Langhe just before the grape harvest, when Autumn is on the doorsteps and leaves are starting to turn orange and red, and you start feeling the urge of wrapping up in a blanket in front of a fireplace.

We stayed in lovely guesthouse All’Ombra del Castello in Cigliè, with beautiful view and a warm welcome by the owners that have a farm there.

We visited the village of Barolo, La Morra, and Grinzane Cavour. The following day, on our way back home, we stopped in Alba for the Truffle Fair.

As you drive on the road taking you to Barolo you find yourself among beautiful hills covered in vineyards and hazelnut trees: it’s wine (and food) paradise all over. You can find here some very important Reds: Barolo, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco, Dolcetto d’Alba, Barbera etc.

In Barolo we went to the Wine Museum sited in Falletti Castle. In the same building there is also the Enoteca Regionale del Barolo, offering some of the best wines in the region.

If you’d like to visit cellars and do tastings in high season, book in advance. The major producers were all booked up when we got there. Same thing for restaurants in Barolo, they tend to get packed.

We decided in turn to take a stroll on the hills. On a sunny day it’s actually a great idea to bring trekking shoes and take a walk along the Strade del Barolo, footpaths on the hills connecting Barolo to the nearby villages.

La Morra is also a very characteristic spot with beautiful view over the other villages. We walked around the central roads, came across many wine shops, and tasted locally sourced hazelnut ice-cream.

In the evening we went to Mondovi and had dinner in this popular-between-locals restaurant, Trattoria Croce d’Oro, that served unforgettable rustic food, fine wines, and was included of free entertainment: it’s picturesque owner. He took care of us, and the other guests, for the entire evening making it quite a memorable one.

The following day we briefly stopped in Alba for the Truffle Fair though unfortunately on a Monday it was closed, but we nonetheless headed back home with a smile on our faces.

 

 

Langhe, Piedmont

Let’s go to the Langhe?

Directed towards Turin, turn right, get out of the motorway towards Cuneo, we move away from the city, and the landscape changes. I was expecting to meet smooth hills, but maybe that is Tuscany, a different story, these hill are shier, they don’t show their beauty straight away, they keep it hidden for who knows how to look for it.

We get to B&B All’Ombra del Castello in Cigliè, a small village near Mondovi, a simple place fostered by its owner’s strong passion, lovely view and good breakfast.

We wander around Mondovi and sit down for an aperitivo by the historical square. Later, thanks to the owner of the B&B in Cigliè, we have dinner at the Trattoria Croce d’Oro.

In this very typical place we meet Him, the perfect host, in a rustic restaurant with formidable cuisine, fassona meat tartare melting like butter in your mouth. Beyond the amazing quality of food and wine, it’s literally the host making the difference. A great option to spend the night for a romantic dinner or to dine with a group, drinking superb wines and eating classic plates from Piedmont, with amazing price/quality ratio.

The next morning it was a beautiful sunny day and we went to Barolo ignoring that open cellars plus great weather meant crowds and no availability: “all full, sorry”.

Barolo is a tiny village with a central castle overlooking the surroundings, where you can visit the interesting and avant-garde Wine Museum. If you plan your trip there, book in advance and you won’t be in our same situation, especially for wine tasting that is the point of going there. Piedmont’s food is totally worth trying, the wines are totally worth being lived through.

Beyond these basic and already known reasons to visit the Langhe, we suggest taking a stroll in the vineyards. It’s an evocative landscape, able to tell the vineyards’ history with the passing of seasons, the fascinating ability to follow the hilly ground, the intriguing uniformity of these plants, as fragile as precious, taken care of by the wisdom of expert hands.

On our third day, we stopped briefly in Alba, homeland to the Truffle Fair, a very touristy destination, and maybe the charm of the Langhe here had already vanished.

 

 

Santiago to Lisbon

Driving from Porto to Lisbon, through Obidos and Cabo da Roca

On the road from Porto through the picturesque village of Obidos, magnificent views at Cabo da Roca, and arriving in Lisbon.

Directed towards Cabo da Roca, we decided to stop for lunch in lovely Obidos. From Porto to Cabo da Roca it takes about 5 hours driving.

OBIDOS

This village is a little gem and property of the Queens of Portugal for centuries: you can tell why as soon as you set foot in it. It’s very photogenic. It’s possible to visit the village in couple of hours walking on top of the medieval wall, strolling around its pretty roads constellated by white houses and colourful Bougainvillea, sipping the typical cherry liquor called ginjinha.

Ginjinha is good. Be careful, in the summer heat you might end up going ‘ginjinha, ginjinha, ginjinhaaaa’. No personal references here of course.

Continuing the road trip, we take the more coastal road to explore a bit and see the ocean. We pass by Ericeira, which is a popular surfers town and way traffic congested. Besides, landscape-wise it isn’t that interesting since there are many buildings nearby the beach. If you don’t want to lose time take the motorway and avoid the coast, it’ll be faster.

CABO DA ROCA / COLARES

We finally make it to Cabo da Roca, the most Westerner strip of land in the European continent and home to the Cabo da Roca lighthouse. The landscape is break-taking, the coast stands out on the massive ocean where the wind blows unrelentingly day and night.

Not far from here it’s possible to reach two different beaches on foot. The first one, Praia da Aroeira, is secluded, wild, made of big rocks and angry waves. Trekking there takes about 1 hour and requires trekking shoes as it’s not an easy path, especially going down the steep hill.

The second beach is Praia da Ursa, one of the most suggestive of Portugal, with a beautiful sandy beach looking at massive rock formations shaped like pointy triangles, and suggestive sunsets. It takes about half an hour to reach Ursa on foot, with a more accessible path in comparison to Praia Areoira.

In the village of Colares, where we stayed, there is a Sunday market selling fruits, vegetables and local produce. For the daily shopping ask for a mini market in the area, you’ll be surprised by the variety of products here. In the evening we enjoyed tasting typical plates of food at Refugio da Roca.

Not far from Colares, within Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, dwells Sintra Castle, Palácio da Pena, UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s worth visiting, but in high season, a bit overrated we think. In the evening we pay a visit to the touristy town of Cascais, which has many culinary options and entertainments. All in all, we love it just fine in tiny Colares with a view of the ocean from the apartment, beautiful sunsets and lots of peace and quietness to rest and catch up on reading.

LISBON

Lisbon is undoubtedly a city with incredible charm. We stayed in an apartment in the Moorish district of Alfama and we simply fell in love with it. Spending two nights in Lisbon is not enough to visit it, so we decided to enjoy it in freedom allowing some time for shopping. In Alfama we recommend Giallo, for great gourmet ice-cream near the Fado Museum, and between the myriad of typical restaurants, Santo António de Alfama, which is a bit of an institution.

 

 

3 days in Oporto, for a taste of Porto

In recent years Porto has become more and more popular with tourists thanks to low-cost flights from Europe, to a point that its recent development has been strictly related to this phenomenon.

As we get out the metro in Rua de Mouzinho da Silveira it feels almost like being in Regent Street in London. The special relationship between Portugal and the United Kingdom dates back to the first peace treaty of 1373, and leaves its traces in architecture too.

If at first sight Porto seems quite rough, especially in the outskirts, in the central areas you’ll find characteristic corners and yummy street food. From bolinho de bacalhau, battered codfish, to sardine paté, not to forget the very typical francesinha, a sandwich made of 8 different types of meat, melted cheese and a secret sauce using beer and/or porto. Every restaurant will tell you theirs is the best! We had francesinha at the food festival of Jardim de Sao Lazaro, taking place in August, and loved it, especially after an iced caipirinha.

Not far from here we’d recommend going to Casa Kanimanbo in Rua de Augusto Rosa 32, an old-style cafe that’s probably been exactly as it is for decades (including the man at the counter!), for a favourite-between-locals bolinho de bacalhau or tasty bread and tripe: sounds scary but it’s actually tasty.

Finding out where locals love eating, in spite of ending up in restaurants often catering solely for tourists, it’s definitely one of our favourite part of a trip: and yes we have been eating quite consistently!

If you have enough of town, go to Foz du Duoro, where river Douro meets the Atlantic ocean. At the lighthouse you can peer at fishermen trying their luck, and relax looking at waves crashing incessantly on the walkway. On the way back at sunset the atmosphere towards town is peaceful and the landscape turns evocative.

In full touristy swing is also the town south of Douro river, Vila Nova de Gaia, simply called Gaia. Originally an industrial settlement to store Porto, its cellars have now converted to welcoming visitors for wine tastings. From Gaia it’s possible to get on a cable car taking you right back to the south side of Dom Luis I Bridge, connecting Gaia to Porto.

For tasting and getting to know more about this world-famous wine, it’s definitely worth going to the Douro Valley. For who doesn’t have a few days on their hands to explore this region given its vastness, it’s possible to join an organised tour that allows you to have a glimpse of it in one day. Alternatively you can rent a car and go on your own although roads are quite twisted so you risk loosing time.

The highlight of the days in Porto are without a doubt visiting estate Quinta do Tedo in Douro Valley. They offer a very informative guided tour of the cellar in English, as well as tasting of premium quality Porto.They show you how the production takes place, and explain the difference between a Tawny and Ruby, for example, or what does it take to make a vintage Porto etc.

We bought Tawny Porto from the vineyard: opening up the bottle after months of this experience was totally reminiscent of being there and magically brought back the same images, smells and flavours.

From Porto we collected our rented car and headed towards Cabo da Roca, the most Westerner point in continental Europe, and home to an important lighthouse.

 

Getting together in Santiago de Compostela

Even though Santiago de Compostela is traditionally the last stop of the ancient Way of St. James, for us, it was the perfect place to start from.

Luca was at the end of his Camino del Norte (Northern Way), and I was going to meet him there to start our first trip together: from Santiago to Lisbon. When you recently met, 10 days apart can seem endless.

Santiago is a small town where everything – or almost – is within reach. Here you can start letting go, soaking up the fervent energy that this city emanates at every corner. In fact, people arrive to Santiago after strenuous journeys to come to peace with themselves, and the rest of the world.

The Cathedral is, without a doubt, the focal point of Santiago. Most guesthouses are situated within 10 minutes walking distance. Finding accommodation during high season can be tricky, so best to book in advance.

Visiting the Cathedral is a must-do, both for its ancient past and for the unique spirituality that it carries. It’s one of most important sacred destinations of Christianity since the Middle Ages, and indeed a very charming historical place

On the first day in Santiago we enjoyed walking around its narrow alleyways, wandering around Parque de la Mesa and Parque de Belvìs. We tasted food, peered at people while sitting in Praza da Quintana, listened to live music in the street at night.

Food wise, pulpo a la gallega (Galician Octopus) was a bit of a let down, maybe we have only been unlucky…! For this reason we suggest you to have it closer to the sea. If you fancy great quality jamon serrano, go to Rua de Caldeireia and you’ll find a jamon shop that sells amazing sandwiches melting in your mouth.

On our second day in Santiago we decided to take a day trip to Finisterre, literally ‘the end of the earth’, a very popular destination for pilgrims after arriving in Santiago. By bus it takes 2 hours each way.

After getting off the bus and grabbing a coffee in the nearest cafe, we follow a footpath of approximately 40 mins, and reach the lighthouse placed on a scenic promontory, standing above the massive ocean. You can sit here, relax, and peer over the horizon literally for hours.

The following day we are ready for our next destination: Oporto, we are coming!

 

Santiago de Compostela to Lisbon in 12 days

An itinerary from Santiago de Compostela to Lisbon, through Porto, Obidos and Cabo da Roca.

In a nutshell: a lot of Atlantic Ocean, and a lot of wind.

OUR ITINERARY

Day 1 – Arrival in Santiago de Compostela, checked-in at one of the many guesthouses, explored town walking around.

Day 2 – Visited Santiago on foot.

DAY 3 – Day-trip to Finisterre by bus.

Day 4 – Bus to Porto (5 hours), and check-in at hotel 6Only Guest House.

DAY 5 – Explored Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia on foot.

DAY 6 – Organised day-trip to Douro Valley to taste Porto.

Day 7 – Rented a car and drove 5 hours to Cabo da Roca, stopping by Obidos for lunch. Stayed at apartment in Colares.

DAY 8 – Around Cabo da Roca’s lighthouse and the nearby beaches.

DAY 9 – Day-trip to Sintra visiting the Pena Palace and the park. Evening in Cascais.

Day 10 – Drove to Lisbon by car (1 hour), returned car rental and checked-in at Airbnb flat in Alfama.

Day 11 – Chilled out in Lisbon/Alfama.

Day 12 – Way back.

BUDGET

1.200 euro per person sharing accommodation, excluding flights. You can make it cheaper considering we travelled in mid August with high season prices, and we chose mid-range rooms from 70 to 100 euro per night.

TRANSPORTS

From Santiago we went to Finisterre, and Porto, by bus. We got tickets for Finisterre at Santiago bus station, the ones to Porto online. In Porto we rented a car to get to Lisbon, where we returned the car and moved around by public transports/taxi.

TIPS

You could also start directly from Porto, and give two extra nights to Lisbon.