Loving Lisbon

If you are looking for  your next European Citytrip destination than I might have an answer to your questioning.

Lisbon.

Lisbon has a lot to offer for every kind of traveller among us.

I visited Lisbon with one my closest friends on this trip. I have known her for almost half of my life now and must say I am a fortunate man to have her around. At least I am not the only one around who is clumsy and says embarrassing things.

In the early morning of our first day my friend already discovered she brought the wrong pair of shoes resulting in a huge blister on her foot before we even got to the airport… Luckily she brought some bandaids that stick… for like a full five minutes.

Once we arrived in Lisbon we took the subway to our hotel. Hotel Fenix Music, which is centrally located next to the subway station (Marqués de Pombal). This trendy hotel has a bunch of cool features like a rooftop bar (open until 1 AM) and swimming pool with great panoramic views over the city. You have also free internet throughout the entire hotel and free breakfast included.

We dropped our bags at the hotel and went for lunch.

Afterwards we strolled down Avenida Liberdad and sought coolness under the trees along the boulevard. We ended up at the Praça do Comércio, a big square at the banks of the Tagus.

From there you can proceed your stroll along the water to Cais do Sodré. Here you can take a train to Cascais, a little beach place where you can take a refreshing plunge, catch a tan on the lifeguarded beach or stroll some more along the picturesque path from Cascais to the Estoril train station where you can jump on the train back to Lisbon.

On your way back, make sure you stop at Belém. Here you can visit the ‘Torre de Belém‘ (tower) and the ‘Padrão dos Descobrimentos‘ (statue). From here many world explorers started their journey to find new land.

Getting hungry from all these history tales ? Than you have to try the famous ‘Pasteis de Belém

From Cais do Sodré you can also take a ferry across the Tagus and go check out the statue of Christo Rei. A roundtrip with the ferry costs you 2,90 euro. Once you reached the other side you can jump on bus 101 that rides every half an hour up the hill. Roundtrip for the bus ticket is another 1,90 euro and can be paid on the bus. From the hill you have a great view over Lisboa, the Tagus and the Ponte 25 de Abril, a gigantic suspension bridge over the Tagus that looks a lot like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Not high enough for you ? Well then you can take the elevator up to the statue for 4 euro.

Another must do in Lisbon is taking the yellow Tram 28. This is a very popular attraction so the waiting line to catch the next tram might be longer than some lines in Disneyland. We decided to take this tram on our last day and spent two hours waiting in line at Martim Moniz, where the tram starts its journey. Once you get on board the tram takes you through some of Lisbon’s most narrow streets and uphill all the way to the ‘Castelo de São Jorge’. I would recommend to jump off the tram here and walk back down through the streets of Alfama.

At least that’s what most people do. We skipped the stop because we were running late to catch our flight but ended up in an even less convenient location to catch the subway back to the airport. We jumped back the tram and stayed on until the Baixa-Chiado stop. There we ran to our hotel to pick up our bags and made it all just in time to our flight.

So dear traveler, not a good idea to force Tram 28 into your last day.

The Land of Fire and Ice

It’s not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves – William Shakespeare

In the fall of 2013 my sister and I decided to go on a ‘sibling’ trip. This was a sort of annual thing we tried to maintain.

That year Iceland became our choice of destination. Flights were surprisingly cheap from Amsterdam to Reykjavik with Icelandair and on a rainy November morning in November we left to the land of Fire and Ice.

We arrived in the evening in Reykjavik at our apartment ‘Apartment K‘, which is centrally located and has a hip vibe.

We dropped our bags and booked a ‘Northern Lights Tour’ with ‘Super Jeep‘ that same night.

They pick you up at your hotel/apartment in a jeep on steroids and drive you to a central meeting point just outside the city.

Our tour started with a bumpy jeep climb up the hill so be careful with what you eat before the tour. We stopped on the top of the hill to take some awesome shots of Reykjavik by night. From this hill you can spot the Imagine Peace Tower, a memorial for John Lennon from his wife Yoko Ono.

On the hill the drivers evaluate where the weather conditions would be the best to see the Northern Lights. As weather conditions are very unpredictable in Iceland they can never guarantee you will see the lights but you have a pretty fair chance you’ll see one. If not, they will give you a new ticket to ride for the next day.

After driving for a while we were rewarded for our patience. Out of nothing appeared a green light in the sky that soon changed into a curtain in the wind. Definitely one of the most asthonising things I have seen in my young life.

We also got some hot chocolate afterwards to celebrate and made our way back home. I had a great experience with Extreme Iceland and Super Jeep and could recommend them to anyone. This was only our first night here and the trip was already successful !

The second day we visited the city of Reykjavik. It’s a very cozy city with a great vibe. Plenty of little shops, trendy bars and restaurants and cool architecture. Make sure you visit the Harpa (concert hall) and the Hallgrímskirkja (really cool church).

The third and final day we rented a car and drove the ‘Golden Circle‘, a popular route that includes some jaw dropping sights.

One of those is Thingvellir National Park where you can clearly spot the path of the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. A great spot to hike around.

Once we were returning to the car we saw the weather change from blue skies to grey big clouds. We checked the weather with the information desk and they warned us that a storm was coming our way and we had to be careful with driving. Once we started driving the roads quickly turned into a snow road combined with some decent gusts of wind.

We continued our way and drove along Strokkur, an active geyser that erupts every couple minutes.

A little further we arrived at Gulfoss, a majestic waterfall. Due to the winds and the cold we could only endure a couple minutes at the viewpoint before we hurried our asses inside the cafetaria to warm up and have some local lamb soup.

Once the weather cleared up a bit we made our way back direction Reykjavik. Since we were still on time and had the rental car until the end of the day we decided to drive to the Blue Lagoon. On our way the wind and rain picked up again and we arrived to find an empty blue lagoon due to the terrible weather. Although we couldn’t have the blue lagoon experience we still got a good idea of how it looks like.

Hopefully I get the chance to return to this awesome country during summer and explore more of its beauty.

Schnitzels and Strüdels in Vienna

Alright, so you got one day to see something in Vienna and I am sure you want to make the best of it. That is certainly what I was trying to do last week during my short visit in Vienna. I combined this trip with two days in Budapest.

Since Budapest is a cheap destination to fly to with Ryanair or Wizzair (from Charleroi) I managed to avoid the otherwise expensive flight from Brussels to Vienna. A little travel tip to see great places that tend to have expensive airfares.

So I took the train from Budapest to Vienna. It takes you about three hours to get there but the trains are pretty comfortable and not that expensive (Budapest-Vienna 30 euro return ticket).

My first impression of Vienna was the presence of all these historical buildings. A clear sign of how rich Austria was during the centuries and how it is still a rich country today.

Stephanplatz

Most likely you’ll start your journey here and scent the smell of horses when you walk around the Stephanzdom. Be prepared to see a lot of these ‘horse and carriage’ packages around the city.

Schönbrunn Palace (Schloss Schönbrunn)

Somewhere during your visit, you will have to take some time for the Schönbrunn Palace and its gardens. Once you arrive you will be impressed by the largeness of this palace. But that is only a humble introduction. Once you make your way around the castle you will face a huge garden filled with perfect symmetry. These gardens also include the Vienna Zoo and the Gloriette. From the Gloriette you have a great view of the city so it is worth the climb.

Donauinsel

Wanna relax and get away from the city madness and overload of tourists? Then the Donauinsel will satisfy your needs. Take the metro to ‘Prater’ and stroll around the island in the city. Seems like a lot of locals come here with their family or friends to hang out. Some of them are sunbathing in the grass or along the docks while overlooking the Danube while others are running or rollerblading along the track.

Food

Fancy a hotdog? Well, then apparently Bitzinger Wurstelstand near the Albertina is your go-to place and the waiting line doesn’t lie. No time or no budget for this? No worries,  there are plenty of other hot dog stands or food places around. But while you are there you might as well try it.