After a beautiful night's sleep on a mattress that sounded like sheet metal and felt like a trash bag stuffed with over-starched towels, I opened the shutters to find a miraculous day waiting for me. Blue skies and birds chirping, I was like Snow White but with a boxed wine hangover. The street was speckled with ravaged garbage bags that had been looted by the homeless for recyclables that they could cash in. It was May, the rainy season, but the sun was pouring in, illuminating the colorful walls of the Candelaria district.
Took a cold shower (not on purpose) and had a hearty breakfast of one medium-sized mediocre apple and four cups of glorious black coffee. The place was practically kicking me out, motioning me to get a move on.
Many described the route to Monserrate as though it was a ramshackle stone path but instead it turned out to be a well-manicured park gleaming with bright plants and a plethora of policemen. Along the way, I passed a milieu of life. A lonely horse galloped up the path with no traces of the owner. Shanties grouped together, their residents displayed their pickings for sell - papaya shoots and pineapple slivers. Women robed in sweats were nearly melting into the ground while old men passed by breathing heavily but at a cruising speed. School children, on their decline, were all flirting with one another — dressed in white shirts and neatly pressed navy pants. I was confounded— they had no traces of sweat. Only when I got to the top did I realize they had taken the funicular up.
On the mountain top, I could see life playing out below. A futbol match — people scurrying about like legos: just color and shape. The Transmilenio snaked through Ave. Carrera 14 — its red street easily identifiable. The dense, wild side of the mountain was quite the contrast to the expansive city that sprawled below.
// Down in the city, I sauntered through the Emerald Street Market. Street vendors announced their offerings with megaphones. Their fast chants resounded making the whole place vibe like a betting window at a racetrack rather than a marketplace. This place was a sight to behold. A man stood playing the drums on his bare stomach next to his juice stand. Next to the drummer, a homeless man with a scholarly suit and lab coat wore his glasses on the tip of his nose, his pleas for change slightly nasally. A store advertised their newest product - 3D sculptures made from the ultrasound of your unborn baby. This seemed rather suitable for a city that legalized prostitution and banned abortion. The traditional Colombian crafts had been replaced with cheap Chinese knockoffs — their vendors too lazy to remove the stickers. Surely it was time for more boxed wine.
If you go (in a nutshell):
La Despensa Calle 70A # 9-95, Bogotá
La Taperia -Carrera 4A # 26d-12 - spectacular food in La Macarena
Abasto_ in Usaquen
Casa de Citas for music/ drinks
- La Calera - best views of the city. Go here at night and buy hot, spiced drinks from the vendors
- Bogota graffiti tour: Where: Plaza de Periodistas
- 10 best contemporary art galleries in Bogota
- La Macarena is home to a collection of funky boutiques
- Cool Crafts // Artesanías de Colombia - The shop carries crafts made in different regions of Colombia. They have rings made from tagua nuts, macramé shawls, black pottery, sisal baskets. El Retiro Shopping Center, Calle 82 No. 11-75
- Museo Botero Home to Fernando Botero's private collection, this colonial mansion displays the work of the Colombian maestro alongside canvases by the likes of Miró and Monet.
Fulano Backpackers (not the hostel mentioned in this post)
The streets are lined with spreads of unwanted goods, vendors selling kebobs and pot dessert items, and jobless gypsies pitching games of luck for a buck. The techno soundtrack never fades too much as random DJs are dispersed every couple of blocks. Smells of cigarettes yet to be smoked.
King's Day Festivities he streets are lined with
Around each corner, a message left by the transitory reigning authority and the subsequent vigor and life contra.
History of Budapest
A dystopian illusion: drying rugs lying on wooden beams listlessly catching wisps of the bay's wind. Traces of human life, dark hollow windows match the hollowed eyes of the city.
The sky: lilac, a rosemary scent from the passing fields. Rows of lush olive trees, a donkey grazing on overgrown shrubs in a peach orchard.
Miranda do Duro History
An underlying melancholy, hint of paranoia. Birds move methodically taking their positions. Air uplifting the waters weight beneath the minimal white light.
St. Petersburg Statue Guide
Sun setting beneath the ocean's soft cape at midnight to the echoing sounds of heavy metal racketeering.
History of Bergen
An oversize fur cube glides atop a crowd of yamakas and shrunken black hats. Heels on cobblestone, flags whipping the dusty air as it encloses bright ribbons of color.
Safed, Israel History
The many hats of Judiasm
Left at the crack of dawn (possibly before) for the Normandy Coast. Took the train from Gare Montparnasse to Dol-de-Bretagne, then the bus from there to the island of Mont St Michel. Driving up the peninsula, the gray marble water of the Couesnon River looks like smoothed terracotta in the stillness of morning. The tide is low and calm- emitting an emanation of serene mysteriousness. It feels more like the coast of Ireland (i.e. Cliffs of Moher) then it does a part of France. Hikers energized with croissents and cafe-longe march along the marshy path, pressing their walking sticks into the silt. The seabreeze bitterly snaps the cold against my skin.
The mysterious aura is abrubtly ended upon entering the tourist trap. Packs of Asian tourists with their loudly clicking cameras and gereatrics cause a congestion as they snail upwards along the cobblestone path towards the Abbey. Intolerable clots form around stands offering free sugar cookies and apple cider. Then again around the shops handing out identical samples. Irritated, I hastenly navigate through the soon to be diabetics in time to vanquish my sins at twelve o’clock mass.
The cold wind chills the abbey like an icebox. It seeps in through layers and I can feel it in my bones. Constructed out of granite, it is almost unbearable . I think about retreating until the friars and nuns emerge. Dressed in angelic white robes, they begin to light the candles. The place suddenly feels warmer. The friar gathers the long rope laying between the center aisle separating the rows of stiff pews. Giving it a powerful tug, the bell echoes imperfectly, penetrating through my frigid body then once again after the waves ricochet back. The bell’s sound unnoticeablely fades to the comforting chants. The psalms softly follow a harp’s lead. I follow along, raking through the frail pages of the petite psalm book. Everything is serene until an old French man blows his nose into his hand (later of which I am to shake in greeting).
Then it is a slowly unraveling domino effect. Apparently unaware of social politeness, four-eyed Asians continue to ignore the multiple ‘No Photography‘ signs as they flash their Fujis. The last possible space untainted by tourists' assault. Undaunted, the young priest begins leading an inspiring sermon. He lifts my spirits, telling a story of a bird, free to choose any direction to fly in. After mass, I lookout at the residue of the Atlantic, swallowed by the Gulf of St.Malo's marble clay and glistening in the sun.
I weave down to the ancient, famous omelette eaterie, Le Mere Poulard, which has the fluffiest, largest omelettes even seen. Two eggs enlarge to the shape of twenty. The downstairs is oversimplified and overrated, but an unintentional escape upstairs uncovers character-lined walls leading to a high-class cigar bar (which is no doubt never as packed as the downstairs chicken coop). Afterwards, I hightail it back to Paris in need of class after endless free butter cookie samples and fanny-packs.
If you go, don't miss:
Mont St. Michel
- Free entrance into the Abbey with mass attendance (highly recommended)
- Morning mass recommended, 11:00AM
Le Mere Poulard Restaurant
Grande Rue, 50170 Le Mont-Saint-Michel, France
+33 2 33 89 68 68 · merepoulard.com
It's like a dream. No, better. Porto is separated by the Douro River, that is made all the more splendid by its six bridges. At the base of the Dom Luis I Bridge near the Sandeman Port Distillery, colorful women dressed in traditional Portugeuse dress dance through a specialty market offering olive oil, wine, port, cheese, bollo pastries, boudain-like sausages. Inside the Sandeman Distillery, groups of tourists tour and hear the story of how an Englishman conquered the port industry two hundred years ago. After paying penance and completing the routine tour, everyone eagerly tastes the sherry and tawny. Too sweet for my taste, I prefer the dark red wine and salty olives of the Portuguese in the gardens of the Serralves.
During the Serralves em Festa, the Parque de Serralves are filled with art of all traditions- artists, musicians, and contemporary art demonstrations span the grounds. Giant plush Royal thrones sit patiently in the middle of a field. Women untangle from the limbs of a tree, their silky dress flutters in the breeze. Photographers appear out of nowhere with wide lenses, snapping up the beauty from all angles. The soundtrack of a live jazz chantress with an orchestra accentuates the fluctuating smells of minty herbs, geraniums, and mossy leaves. Artist hang their crafts, their flamboyant colors mosaicly broadcast amongst the dark greens of the forest. We relax in between the gentle foliage facing a quartet of jazz musicians that emit lazy Spanish beachcombing tunes ideal for cracking that first cerveza of a hot summer's evening.
Afterwards, we meander over to pop into the Museu de Arte Contemporanea, which reveals characteristic portrait of Porto's contemporary art timeline. An exhibit on 'Teatro Sombras', or shadow theatre, by Lourdes Castro is colorful, sexy, mysterious yet all-telling. A women's outline lit in the doorway by the light of the moon. On the screen, an unidentified body moves through the shadows, much like the alleyways of Porto.
If you go, don't miss:
Douro River Cruises
Speedy boat trip under the six bridges and almost to the ocean, quick and beautiful.
Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves
Rua D. João de Castro, 210
Show on MapTel: +351226156500
Shadow Theatre YouTube
In March of 2010, the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted in Iceland leaving millions of travelers stranded across the world. I happened to be in a fairytale land known as Luxembourg at the time with a friend visiting from the United States. The next snipet is how I found myself in the squalor that is Brussels, Belgium...
An usual Icelandic volcano eruption compounded by a usual train strike in France made the Luxembourg train station was in utter chaos. One frustrated traveler was arguing with a ticket attendant, periodically switching between in French, Italian, and German. The stress was contagious and we began to feel that our immediate departure was more necessary by the minute. We decided to depart on the next train out, either to Brussels or Paris- whichever was first. After about an hour, we hopped on the train to Brussels, ecstatic to have escaped the madhouse in such a short time.
Once the train station was no longer in sight we began to take notice that, although there was a shortage in available transportation, the train was scarcely populated . The woman behind me reeked of stale cigarettes and her mutt continuously emitted a stench of rotten eggs. Every person in the car had a cellphone that rang on maximum volume. The ring, however, was not a standard ringtone but one that was a medley of the most irritating technical sounds obtainable. I began to be convinced that all the other passengers were in a conspiracy to see who could make me jump from the yellow tented windows onto the track.
Immediately once we crossed the border into Belgium, it became gray and cloudy. The landscape was gritty, the grass in the passing fields was dead. As we began to approach Brussels, vile graffiti became more prevalent. Homeless (or otherwise bored vagrants) drank cans of Belgian beer outside Gare du Midi amongst construction, throwing their empty cans into the dust - adding to the piles of filth. The Fine Art Museum was across the street. The color of its columns matched the grey of the street and the sky.
Meandering the streets, a storyline began to take over my mind: I’m in a post-apocalyptic world where a virus inducing dementia has taken over. The virus causes paleness and cravings for waffles from contaminated street vending carts. Instead of the Bourbon Street Lucky Dog carts, these carts were selling waffles instead of three-year-old minced meat conglomeration. I deduced this was the source of the virus.
The whole city is an anarchic toilet bowl. Instead of avoiding the litter on the streets, couples strolling hand-in-hand purposefully kick garbage while smiling at each other. A downtown art installation consisted of a giant orange construction cone. The city produces wafts of waffles, simulating being in a port-o-john while eating a box of Krispy Kreme donuts. If I had an appetite before arriving, it has now been bludgeoned into nothingness. I deduce that I will not be joining Erica for dinner, but drinking myself into an intended oblivion.
Irony mocked us continuously. Ironically, these were the people known for producing comics. The fact that these dirty, barking homeless beings' one call-to-fame was laughter and delectable sweets was impossible to imagine. The sole Tabac nearby carried a sparse selection of intoxicants: merlot or peach schnapps.
A peeing cupid statue dons the mantle over the front door to our hostel, the statue a welcoming to all the tired, poor guests to the Sleep Well Hostel. Needless to say, I was drinking straight from my bottle of merlot by 20:00 in the lobby. Walking up to the front desk (bottle in hand) I asked the receptionist, a Hunchback Dilbert, where to find the book exchange. The only geek to ever state, “I’d rather watch the movie then read the book” leads me to a dungeon where the 'book exchange' was located. It only consists of Lord of the Rings knock-offs. I tried to imagine Hunchback Dilbert joking with friends over waffles in a diner. The scene quickly ends in bloodshed after pancakes are brought.
Around 2:00AM a homeless man acquired a jackhammer and began to test it outside the hostel. Although we were on the 3rd floor, it sounded as though the Jackhammer Villain was beside my bunkbed. I awoke from my booze-induced coma delirious but ready to escape. Once we arrive at the train station, we drop 100 Euros, no longer pennywise, and step into our escape car as the whistle blows.
NOTE: This was before the horrible invasion and destruction of Crimea.
After an 16 hour train ride in second class from Kiev to Simferopol, and a bus transfer from Simferopol, we finally arrived exhausted, hungry, and dirty as hell in Sudak. Through eye-contact alone, we agree on a taxi and manage to hire the only skinny taxi driver in Ukraine. Not a minute after we had agreed on the fare and set off, did he swoop around the corner and picked up his Mother-in-law to hitch a ride.
The gangly fellow turned out to be a madman behind the wheel. One of his first travesties was almost an old man canning across the intersection. Built on hilly terrain, the streets of Sudak claw their way out of the sea into a maze- thus a traffic jam on the main thoroughfare results in a pertinacious stalemate. Or so we thought. The cabbie proceeded to reverse at 15mph (and gradually increasing speed) up a one way street as if escaping a lava pit. Miraculously, we arrived at the gates of our guesthouse, backwards, Locked gates and a malfunctioning buzzer appeared to be trivial to our proactive Formula One taxi driver. Unsolicited, he scaled the walls and yelled "WOMAN, COME!". Next thing we knew, a short Ukrainian woman was prying open the gates to an sylvan two-story guesthome shaded by cherry trees.
If you go:
Beach & Fresh Market
(Market near the Intersection of Ushakova & Mors'ka St.)
Walk down the road towards the fortress until you almost reach the end of the boardwalk. Along the right, a fresh market sells fruits, cheeses, and vegetables. Take your haul down to the furthest point of the cove to sit on the water's edge and watch Ukrainian women repetitively pose for their boyfriend's camera. After a toe-dip in the cold sea, take the dirt, Mountain Goat-like trail up to the Sudak Fortress (FYI: littered with an impressive amount of glass).
Explore the fortresses' views and various ramparts freely and gaze into the Black Sea's splendor. Tie a piece of fabric on the makeshift statue at the top for good luck. Don't slip down the anthill, the paths are not controlled. Spot the beach cove to the right of the fortress and plan your desultory route to it through side streets.
Isolated Beach Cove
(Near the end of Prymors'ka St.)
Once you emerge from the seemingly private garden path and you'll come to a rocky cove with a restaurant and plenty of chairs to lie on. The water is warmer and the place is rather pleasant (besides the horrible, blasting music which is the norm). I recommend drinking over eating, unless shrimp crumbles mixed with eggs, mayonnaise and tomato sounds appealing.
Transport: Novyi Svit Winery is three miles away, seemingly in walking distance. However, the route is along a winding mountain road. Luckily we took a cab . Even more luckily, we happen to pass a man running after pick-pocket who robbed him as he was walking along the very way.
The winery doesn't sell cold cuvee, you much purchase it around the corner at the store. Drink your cold Ukrainian cuvee on the beach and watch the boats. And, apparently, the jellyfish don't sting.
If you go:
Train + Bus (Don't even try the Black Sea Ferry, it is impossible).
Aivazovs'koho St, 17, Sudak, Crimea, Ukraine, 98000
+380 50 055 6564
Rule One: Never enter into a Shopping Mall, no matter how badly you need to use the restroom or crave the air conditioning. If you're body starts to gravitate towards Sim Lim, try to conjure memories of the valleys and creeks that you will never set your eyes on again after being sucked into the materialism that is Sim Lim.
Rule Two: Hawker Centers, food centers comparable to cafeteria style food courts, offer an array of food choices and give you the opportunity to try a variety of local delicacies. There are numerous Hawker Centresthroughout Singapore, typically one per neighborhood. Each food stall is graded according to cleanliness, housekeeping, and hygiene. If you end up choosing one of the more touristy Hawker Centers, beware of the vultures that will circulate you for business. I recommend the Hawker Centre in Chinatown, the Bukit Timah Market. Climb to the highest level for the Hawker Centre, the lowest level is the food market (grocery) and ground level is a clothing market.
Rule Three: Take a journey to the outskirts to the European-style Singapore Botanical Gardens and let yourself breathe before entering into the Marina Bay Sands complex, which has followed Abu Dabi and constructed its own landmass featuring a indoor-garden monstrosity surrounded by a resource-sucking 250 acres of gardens. It is, however, a extravegant sight and features massive tree-like structures that put on a light show to music at night. If you end up getting an hotel room to enjoy the infamous infinity pool on the roof at the Marina Bay Sans resort, you can watch and hear it from the rear bar.
Rule Four: Venture to the Arab Quarter (Kampong Lam) for everything. It is a tiny oasis that transports you out of the hustle and bustle. There are various shops, restaurants,eclectic spots with nightly live music and art happenings, and cafes. Remember that in the Arab Quarter, no alcohol is served or allowed. It is only allowed on the outer streets. While you're there, swing into Blu Jaz Cafe for a myriad of art and live music happenings.
Rule Five: There are plenty of architectural splendors and oddities that can serve as your escape route from the heavy metal and concrete. Below are a few traditional architectural hideouts, inquire for more...
#1. Parkview Square ("Gotham Building")
- Art-deco like structure, square features bronze statues of notable scholars, philosophers, and scientists. The ornate lobby has is simply breathtaking. Have a drink at the bar.
#2. Central Fire Station
- Candy stripped
#3. Raffles Hotel
- The atmosphere simply invites old-fashioned class and provides a refreshing breath of air, reminiscent of the past.
If you go:
Drink & Dine
Bukit Timah Market - (Coffee stand up the stairs and to the left is amazing. There should be a line.)
116 Upper Bukit Timah Rd, Singapore 588172
Raffles Hotel (They do have happy hour at the back bar, though not as special as the courtyard.)
1 Beach Rd, Singapore 189673
Maharajah (North Indian Tandori Restaurant)
Cuppage Rd, Singapore 229461
- Singapore Botanical Gardens
- National Museum of Singapore (Wonderful collection of contemporary art.)
- Fort Canning Park (Great view of the city on this little, historic hilltop)
70 River Valley Rd, Singapore 179037
Square. Harsh. Bleak. Dark. A quickness hoarding resent. Passing facade after facade, lifeless windows. Dilapidation of all we pass. The water even moves forcefully, violently against the boats, against itself. Each wave thrashing without repetition or order. The sky barring down upon the city and its inhabitants. We started the morning rushing past the memorials of a tragic past. Some meant to celebrate victory but instead serve to remind of the trials and tribulations and tiers of oppression. Lenin stands stalwart but windswept in front of Communism’s oath to work, labor. Guns held in the air of those Defenders of Leningrad greet those traveling from the hills into the city on Moskovsky Prospekt. Most statues’ body posture sculpted to impart strength and the supremacy over the common man who he concurrently is and isn’t a representation of. Over the hills and into Catherine’s Palace, we’re greeted by a second-rate Russian rendition of Egyptian hieroglyphics. The whole Palace was bombed in the War so it has been completely restored- however, poorly. Groups of look-alike tourists shuffle through with their pantyhose covering their feet to ‘protect’ the floor. It’s a madhouse. Our guide Dyolva tries to give us the history of every object, room, and related relic (it would not be the end of this information overload. However, it is quite impressive the amount of historical knowledge that every Russian civilian possesses in a memorized account.)
// In St. Petersburg you must experience with a discerning eye. On the way to Peter & Paul Fortress, we pass a monastery with grand spires and colorful domes- one blue with white stars. Incongruously, in the front along the street is a row of canons. We pass a Byzantine Synagogue (restored), a KGB building with perfectly square concrete windows for a whole city block, buildings of pale yellows and greens- their paint chipping onto the street torn by the wind and rain, bars named for their depravity (‘Sorry Mama’), horrid clothing shops, shadows stooped in windows just behind the drafty curtains. What we pass speaks more about the city than what we are supposed to encounter on our trip as tourists. A man walking out of an undisclosed building carrying one pair of women’s stilettos (one red, one black). Seemingly suicidal pigeons standing on edge. A Mondrian mural hidden on a side street.
// After much deliberation, we decide to go have lunch downstairs of the Elisseeff Emporium trading house. Founded by St. Petersburg’s first spice merchants, the atmosphere is truly grand. The walls are beautiful windows of ornate glasswork, framing rows of counters displaying tea biscuits, cheeses, meat, and other delicacies. We move downstairs, almost haphazardly, to find a dimly lighted restaurant boasting maritime specialties. The lighting hid its true opulence until we settled. We sat in front of the kitchen at a mosaic table, the top adorned with profiles of local fish, near cabinets of wine. We melted into the seats like royalty- plush sofas with wooden armrests. Starved (it was nearly 4pm), we dined on Carpaccio, fresh poppy seed bread, and massive black olives, calzones, salmon, pizza, creamy mussels, and wild mushroom soup. // To finish the grand tour, we popped into the student artist co-op and Smolny Cathedral. Still raining, we ran back into the boat from a quick stop before our after hours date with the Hermitage. [Sidenote: Our driver Nikkoli was quick to note that he was born in Leningrad, not St. Peterburg.]
// The walls of the Hermitage are noticeably cracked; falling in but the guide continues to brag about its flawlessness. No one seems to notice, even after she reports of the chandelier crashing onto the ground- through the floor- several years prior. We walk in to the Italian Master’s gallery and through Rembrandt’s gallery totally undisturbed, with time to process the brillance of the art. Our guide continues to lead us through the galleries with her left eye half-open into a wing where the St. Petersburg Orchestra has set up to play. Everyone takes their seats (20 per.) and I catch the first smile I’ve received from a Russian thus far. The clarinet player continues to cheerily play the whole duration and look at me after each song in an approving glance. The six scores are performed passionately with utmost precision. The conductor knows each note with all of his being, he performs and gestures as if to impart each note’s essence. // Afterwards, as we walk along the canal, the dark city is finally illuminated. The street lamps light the waterway and sparkling spire gleams in the distance. Finally I understand the splendor of the city and with a Russian-like subdued sign of cheer, I am able to retire peacefully.
Stepping off the 8 person john boat, after a day on the Amazon, I feel slightly jovial about emerging unscathed. Somehow during our two hour journey back to Leticia, I fell asleep- head bobbing back and forth against the top of the lifevest like a loose X. The fear of falling into the chocolate oasis of anacondas, piranhas, and 18 foot pirarucus obviously did not concern my subconscious. I only had awoken when I heard the tiny sounds of glee from the 60-year old Colombian abuela. And there it was- a grayish-pink dolphin fin came jutting out of the water.
Like all isolated tribes and maniacal suburbanites, the Amazonian tribes have their own folklore and belief system. The Ticunas in particular believe that the divine pink dolphin (Bufeo Colorado) impregnates women in the night.
Leticia is nicely nestled between Peru & Brazil, creating a conglomeration of cultural encounters. Under the blazing morning sun, we ran from Colombia into Brazil along the heavily trafficked main road without so much as a blink of an eye over the border. Most Amazonians choose to run at night when the city is quieter and the exhaust and heat have diminished. Even under feet of rainwater, scooters fill the roads in the morning hours, packed on tight with crates of eggs, babies with helmets, and multiple schoolchildren. After the abrupt storms, water sprays into the chests of fellow commuters, knees remain submerged and the city becomes alive again.
Even after the night's heavy rain continued well into the morning, the ground continued sipping up the rainwater. Deep into the jungle nearby, I was suspended 200 feet up in the air gradually hosting myself higher and higher up for a canopy tour. Unlike the typical American zipline where one climbs a ladder, we worked our way up the rope with our grips- the smell of Reptileo exuding from our pores in the humid air. Above the trees, the cooler air blew through and the jungle seemed impenetrable as the sounds of birds resonated off the treetops. The noise of the changed quickly once we got into the riverbed in our kayaks. Insects echoed- blared- like sirens.
The Brazilian Portuguese and cachaca can be experienced hand-in-hand with Peruvian ceviche and Colombian patacons. I chased down the irritation from mosquito molestation with caprihanas muddled on the cliffside of Tabatinga. The sun set behind the coast of Peru, seemingly pulling the clouds with it.
If you go:
Amazona B&B (Letiicia)
(I wouldn't recommend a dive- having shelter from the rain entering your room at night keeps one from insanity. Enjoy an indoor hammock and the excitement of cold showers.)
Casa Selva Hotel (Puerto Narino)
- You'll have to get a boat ride there to stay on the bountiful, colorful island
Great fish to eat while you're there: Dorado & pirarucu
Tierras Amazonicas Carrera 8, Leticia, Amazonas, Colombia
El Santo Angel Dorado a parilla
Comara (Tabatinga Brazil- best place to see the sunsetl)
Tanimboca: canopy (dorsel) tour and spectacular rustic accommodations in a natural reserve
Pre-arrange excursions so they can get enough people together not to bail on your reservation.
Isla de los micos: I recommend skipping. Monkeys simply just molest you for about 15 minutes before you go to the next stop.
The streets are narrow and wind up the hilltop, decorated with bright streamers and other adornments that mimic children’s’ birthday decorations. The little leathered Portuguese locals stand outside their tiny business doors; their lolling posture and gentle stares implying an eternal wait.
The old #28 tram somehow winds through these streets, hauling loads of tourists packed liked sardines. Which is quite fitting, seeing that grilled sardines are a local staple. Despite the guidebooks’ claims that locals still mainly use the line, one only sees pale arms hanging out of the windows snapping pictures. This is the main reason I refuse to take the train until the following day and, by the time I finally concede, I board the tram like a dehydrated golden-retriever on the final leg to the Basilica Estrela.
I wander uphill to Igreja Graca to get a virgin’s orientation of the city. It is vast; with the a spectacular view of the impossing Castello de Sao George perched high over the stacked orange roofs. However humorously unoriginal, the Ponte 25 de Abril is a powerful sight from afar and seems to give the towering Cristo Rei a red carpet entrance.
In an attempt to climb the Castello de Sao Jorge for ‘the best view’, I end up wandering around the little streets surrounding it for over a half-an hour, before finally reaching the entrance to be completely over the undertaking. I would argue that we got a better view from the Igreja for free.
Walking through the streets, with sand between my toes due to quick spur-of-the-moment trip to Cascais, the possibilities are exhilarating and beautifully overwhelming at times. The little cobblestone streets are enchanting, especially upon the descent to Ria da Liberdad. It is an unexpectedly scenic road, considering it is one of the main thoroughfares jutting through town into the drugpusher’s den aka Praca Pedro. The street has a tree-lined ped-pathway with shaded benches near a multitude of ponds. As usual, I subconsciously decide on a mission without being completely informed (this is also due to stubborn unwillingness to read a map instead of simply looking at a map) and walk to Parque Eduardo VII. The Marques de Pombal is a sweet site but the park’s fountains are graffiti-ridden and one is even tagged joker-style with red mocking lips.
After the tram ride from Alfama (on which the train got stuck due to lack of uphill speed and had to descend to reattempt incline a second time), I got a taste of the Portuguese gardens while lying in Jardin da Estrella under a willow-tree enjoying some vinho verde before taking a peek inside the Basilica da Estrella. Warning: Do not get apprehended when you enter the Basilica by the old nuns. They'll take you behind a tomb to the church’s tourist trap: pay .50 to light up a paper-mache crib of 500 bobble-headed figures.
If you go, you simply must:
Bars, Music, Nightlife:
The Old Pharmacy
Docas- Drink the Sangria
Tasca do Chico - Bairro Alto- Fado
Sip on capirhinas & ginginha (only from hole-in-the-wall joints)
Elevator de Gloria
Nacional de Arte Antiga, rather disappointing venture and consisted of gory art that is full of blood-spewing decapitated heads.
the Castello de Sao Jorge
Basilica da Estrella
Confeitaria de Belem- eat the pastries
Muse Collecciao Berrado- Design
Pena National Palace- Visit in the late afternoon and have a drink of wine before closing, and get a chance to feel what it means to be in the clouds...
Craving a beach? This is just a short ride away. It was beautiful, but inquire with locals to find the hidden spots. Bring a towel and buy some fruit from a street vendor and relax by the sea.
Lisbon is known for quality Hostels, they are abundant.
Where I stayed: Tavira Youth Hostel, safe & clean with community dinners