Beautiful Èze

On a beautiful Sunday morning, I decided to go to Èze – my Lonely Planet guide said that U2’s Bono owns a villa here, so it had to have a nice view, right…?

I caught the #82 bus from Vauban to Èze village – NOTE: it’s important that you catch the bus to “village” instead of “sur mer” which means beach, otherwise it’s going to be a steep long hike upwards… The bus ride was quite pleasant and only took about 25mins or so. When we arrived, everyone beelined it to the village. I had read that there is a nice garden-like place that you can visit once you reach the highest point. In any case, there is a Tourist Information office which provide you with maps and suggest good places to see whilst in Èze village.

The village was quite small but charming nonetheless. There are alot of artist studios both work on canvas, and clay works – whether it be kitchen plates or pretty decorative tiles. The village has a medieval feel to it, with it’s winding lanes and alleyways. There are a number of nice vantage points that provide a nice view. I somehow managed to find my way to the entrance to the highest point to see this “garden”. I paid the 6EU entrance fee and began to make my way around. The garden is basically a cactus garden – every single possible type of cactus was there…. I made it up to the top and as I looked over at the coastline of Èze, I thought WOW this is truly spectacular, no wonder Bono has a villa around here somewhere…

After exploring the village, I started my walk back down. I had asked the tourist information office if it was possible to hike down all the way to the beach – they said that it was and it would take around 45mins at a steady pace. The hike down was really nice, although at times I thought I was a tad bit crazy as there was no one on the trail for the first 30mins and no cell phone signal! (though it was fine, I was paranoid for no reason!!) The weather was so so good, and I was so glad that I was hiking down and not up! I came across a few people after 30mins who were huffing and puffing – on two occasions I was asked as to how long there was to go (at least thats what I thought they said in French), and with my basic French and some sign language I would tell them that there was still some time to go, wish them “bon chance” and kept on going…

I made it down in exactly 45mins! I didn’t know where the access point to the beach was, but I followed a groups of guys who had just unloaded paddle boarding gear from the car and were in board shorts. I think they knew I was following them but I didn’t care. Turns out I was right, they led me to the seaside – as it was covered in rocks NOT sand. I found myself a nice place to sit and had my packed lunch. I couldn’t resist the amazing turqoise pristine water, so I rolled up my trousers and dipped my feet into the water – oh so nice! but I also cut my toe on the rocks (I HATE ROCKY BEACHES!!). Just chilling by the seaside was so nice, but I could feel my feet burning so I thought I should keep moving (yes I know I should put sunscreen on but I never burn – clearly only in France I burn…)

Next, I walked over to Beaulieu Sur Mer – which was the next beach/bay over. In actual fact, I was going to catch the bus back to Nice, but after waiting 20mins at the stop, I grew impatient and began to walk. And I’m so glad I did. The coastline was absolutely stunning and the sun was shining – loving life! There was a port called “Port de Beaulieu-sur-Mer” that had ALOT of nice yachts! (I have a thing for boat…). I didn’t stay here long, I walked along the harbour and continued walking to the next bay. Oh and the houses that I walked past were absolutely beautiful – I wouldn’t mind a summer villa here…

From Beaulieu sur Mer I walked to Villefranche sur Mer and this was a very busy beach! There were alot of locals here though, unlike the other beaches… The wall was covered in nice pink/purple flowers and the water just looked so inviting! I ended up buying an ice-cream and chillin’ by the water. By this stage, I had walked about 6km, so I thought I should catch the bus back – and given that I knew that bus #100 went along the coast I decided to get to the main road and get on the bus. BIG MISTAKE! the train station was only a short walk from the beach. I even asked the workers there how long it would take me to walk up to the main road, it took AGES! plus the road was all windy and it was a steep ascent! anyway, I managed to get to the main road (eventually) and luckily didn’t wait too long for the bus…

It’s a really nice walk from Èze to Villefranche, particularly because I had the path all to myself… I would definitely recommend it, only thing is to remember to bring water…!

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Magical Monaco F1 Grand Prix

Firstly, make sure you buy your train ticket 2 days (or so) before the race. As I was catching a train from Nice to Monte Carlo, I had bought my train tickets the day I arrived in Nice (2 days prior to the race). I arrived at the train station and low and behold a massive queue! Surprisingly, I didn’t have to wait too long and before I knew it, I was on the train, on my way to the Monaco F1 Grand Prix!

I checked my ticket to see which end I had to leave the platform and honestly it doesn’t matter too much. I had to collect my ticket anyway. I completely forgot to check the collection point, but my feet remembered where to go from last time! Upon collecting my ticket, I made my way over to a stand (mind you there are ALOT of them) and bought myself a pair of ear plugs. Even though the cars weren’t as loud as they used to be, it was still deafening….

I had missed the Porsche race and even the first 10 laps or so of the Renault race. But I made my way to my section and was seated. Let me describe my surroundings: on my right hand side I had full view of the pit lane, infront of me was the general admission area (I felt sorry for those peasants as I was seated there last year and I knew how they felt!), abit to the left was the iconic grandstand (K I think), then to the right was the harbour with all the swish boats and behind me was the pool. Yes I was in the Pool Complex. SUCH AWESOME SEATS!!!

So the Renault race had to restart due to the massive accident – so I guess I was lucky in that I got to see that whole race. The car that got totalled was actually lifted off the track with a crane, so we actually saw a car hanging mid-air! As this race ended, people in orange jump suits lined the track. I then understood that Prince Albert and Princess Charlene must be coming out (these people were the safety measures) to do a lap in a nice blue super car. They waved as they went past. Next up were the racers: I was cheering for the Aussie Daniel Ricciardo in Team Red Bull. They were all in a bus and were being interviewed (we could see it on the screen infront of us).

Not long after the race began – and off they went! It was amazing! Round and around they went – I was lucky that I had three bends in my vision. Seeing the racers coming out of of the second bend always had me thinking “oh no, that was close” but they know this track fairly well… Then again, this track is so unforgiving that one little tiny mistake will cost you the race. And thats what happened to Alonso and Massa, both whom crashed at various stages of the race. Hamilton was in the lead the entire time, but after the second crash he went into pit lane, which I really did not understand why. The safety car came out and did a few laps and then there were only 5 or so laps to go. His team mate Nico, very smartly, didn’t go into the pit and finished the race as winner! YAAY! second time I got to see this amazing racer win the Monaco Grand Prix! Hamilton is a sore loser, he didn’t even stay and chat after the podium, nor did he shake the cliche champagne bottle… he sulked his way off… I stayed right till the end and watch all the interviews etc.

I exited the track and slowly made my way back to the train station. I came across a jazz band in the middle of the street and they were so cheerful and happy. Alot of people had stopped and some even begun to dance – it was really awesome!

The streets of Monaco following the race were very joyful and fun – very festive atmosphere!

The Monaco Grand Prix is just magical – if you like motorsports I would definitely DEFINITELY recommend going, at least once if your life time. AND make sure you get good seats, otherwise you won’t enjoy the experience….

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Nice is simply Nice

I always meet lovely people on the flight to Nice – this time a father and son were seated beside me. Such a nice story: the son (late 20s) had paid for everything for this weekend as a gift for his father’s 60th birthday. Now this was not an ordinary weekend in the south of France – the Monaco Grand Prix was on! The father was so excited – you could just see it in his eyes. I must’ve come across a tad bit deaf, the man was Welsh and had a very thick accent, so I had trouble understanding him… But the three of us were super psyched for the big race! Both father and son were a little disappointed when I told them that I wasn’t particularly fond of Hamilton – the son even said that I was possibly the worst person that they could be seated next to! HA! they were ofcourse joking…

I love arriving in Nice – the airport is just by the sea, and the view is AMAZING! Seeing as though I was here last year around the same time, I kind of knew where I was going… I caught the bus into town and settled into my apartment that I booked from Airbnb. I was staying right in Garibaldi Square above Cafe Turin (Nice’s most expensive seafood restaurant). The next morning, I realised that staying on the square was a HUGE mistake as it is so so noisy! The waiters of Cafe Turin begin to take out the tables and chairs at about 7am! I mean who eats fish for breakfast….?!?!

I explored the old town, I love the winding streets full of cafes, restaurants and shops. I was very impressed with my memory as I remembered where I was going and didn’t get lost at all! Last year my friend Refika and I found a very nice homely restaurant called Restaurant du Gesu – so for my first meal I wanted to go back there. I found it and I was seated, but I couldn’t remember for the life of me what the Nice onion pizza thing was called! And the waiter was very rude this time – he ruined the whole experience! BUT the Italian couple next to me were very friendly and we had a nice chat. In fact, the man was adamant that Australians spoke another language… he was hilarious!

I went to Nice Port and saw that the same row boats that were there last year. It was just nice seeing how some things don’t change… The familiarity of it all was lovely. I hiked up Parc de la Colline du Château (make sure you have good shoes on) on a sunny day and the view from here was spectacular! Make sure you go right up to the top – the signs aren’t too good (abit  misleading actually) but when you eventually make it up the top, it’s definitely worth it!

There are markets on the inner street parallel to Promenade des Anglais (the end that is furthest away from the airport) and they sell everything from flowers, to fresh produce, to olives and sundried tomatoes. Really good value! I bought cherries from here and they were amazing!

Place Massena was nice as usual, and at night there are various street performers. There are also fountains here – and there is even a fountain show in the evening. During the day, the fountains become misty…

Every morning I would go to Paul (the bakery) and ask for a baguette, croissant and a cafe latte. For dinner, besides my first night in Nice, I usually got something to eat for takeaway and sat by the seaside. Nice is thought to be very expensive, but you can easily get by on a budget – you simply have to be travel smart.

Gelato: don’t be fooled by the long line of people waiting to buy gelato from this place in the old town (near the justice building I think). I didn’t get a chance to have it last year, so I was curious this year. I bought 2 scoops and it wasn’t that nice…

As I waited for the airport bus, 30mins later I find out that there is a strike. The bus never came. Luckily a group of 3 people were also going to the airport, so I shared an über with them. In fact, 2 of them were on the same flight as me back to London! They were a great bunch of people and I was lucky enough to share a ride with them to the airport =)

Nice was simply Nice, I could easily turn this into a yearly pilgrimage….

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Tile (Azulejos) painting in Lisbon

When you’re in Lisbon, the first thing that strikes you is the tiles – they’re EVERYWHERE! they are beautifully painted and cover the facade of apartments in the city. The most common colours I saw were the blue and white ones with geometrical patterns, so so nice!

So my friend who is a local, booked us in to a tile painting class (teacher’s details are below) or Azulejos as the Portuguese would say… The class only cost 15EU where we painted two tiles. She had drawn the pattern on with lead pencil and she demonstrated how we should paint and how dark each section should be. It was really nice in that it was only us three and the teacher. Her English was good enough and she had even researched the correct English words to use – which impressed me, it showed that she cared…

In the end, we all painted a village woman and for my second one I chose to paint a yacht (I love boats!). She had to put them into the kiln so we didn’t get a chance to get them back as we were leaving the next day. However, the teacher dropped them off to my friends house and has them safely (soon to be picked up on another trip to Portugal…). I filmed a bit when the teacher was instructing/demonstrating (apologies for the low light…) and I’ve inserted this video below.

I definitely DEFINITELY recommend attending a tile painting workshop! It’s not difficult and it’s alot of fun – plus it’s actually relaxing. Plus it’s a cultural thing – so go for it!

Azulejos Artisticos

Marie Caroline Vidal

mariecarolinevidal@hotmail.com

No: 934 144 520

Facebook: Workshop-de-Azulejos

 

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Beautiful beaches of Lisbon

As an Australian, I really appreciate the coastline of Lisbon – they have actual beaches! not the stoney beaches that I’ve seen in the UK…

And the beaches stretch endlessly – and they are clean! so so beautiful!

The only bad thing that I can say is that I don’t like the development on the beaches ie the stores, cafes, the sun mat hiring places. Beaches should be kept natural – best way to conserve them. I’m so glad that the beaches in Australia don’t have any development on them – I hope it remains like that…

The beaches that we went to were: Estoril and Caparica. Estoril is on the same side of downtown Lisbon whereas Caparica is on the otherside, ie you have to cross the bridge. Both are about 30mins drive from Saldanha and they aren’t over crowded.

The day we went to Caparica, there were a group of kids with bicycles with parachutes attached to the back, where the wind was providing momentum – it looked like so much fun! I walked along this beach, the weather was warm and it reminded me of home…

Seeing this coastline of Lisbon, really makes me want to see the Algarve – which is supposed to be really really nice! Definitely going on the bucket list!

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this is actually a lighthouse (so I'm told...)

this is actually a lighthouse (so I’m told…)

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Caparica

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Streetart of Lisbon

Lisbon has a great street art culture. There are different types of work scattered throughout the city. One that I kept noticing was always when we were driving somewhere and I couldn’t take a photo of it. It’s work by Vhils – I absolutely love this guys style! It basically looks like he has scraped out the wall and thats how he gets his images. I can’t describe it so just click on the link…

There’s alot of streetart also at the LX Factory – various styles from cartoonish to screen painting-like to graphics…

I honestly didn’t get a chance to take photos of all the streetart I saw, but here are the ones I managed to capture, enjoy!

Click on the images below to enlarge them.

 

Pastéis de Belém

Now because I’m a bit of a foodie (others may call me a food snob), I am dedicating an entire post to the ever so delicious Portuguese tart: Pastéis de Belém.

My history with this particular goodness goes years back as I was first introduced to this speciality by my good friend Nancy – who has a Portuguese background. When we were both living in Sydney city, she took me to the Portuguese burrow of Petersham. We went to a cafe called: Sweet Belem Cake Boutique. The first bite was AMAZING! Just biting into the pastry makes all the flakes get on your clothes, and honestly, you don’t mind, because it tastes oh so good! So this became a regular “go to” place for me. The last time I went here was with a friend visiting from Porto years ago – who actually said that these pastries were as good as where they were from originally = BELEM!

So there you have the history of my obsession with these tarts… A few years ago, I visited that same friend in Porto and there the name of this pastry is called Pastel de nata. They were ok, but not WOW…

On this trip, I was very excited to be having the real thing = FINALLY! So when we all sat down and our Pastéis de Belém arrived with our homemade lemonade, I wanted to squeal with delight. I ate all THREE!!!! they were oh so YUM! I then got some for take away (will not disclose the number…) and enjoyed some more later on the beach…

If I haven’t convinced you to try the real thing – you simply don’t understand how good it is. It is DEFINITELY worth it! If you do nothing else in Lisbon and just go to Belem to get the pastries – I’d declare that an awesome trip in itself! I really am not exaggerating – they are simply YUM! Oh and just a note: do not wait outside in the line like all the other tourists, go and find a seat inside, the place is massive and you won’t wait as long! You can also see the place where they make them, take them out of the cases etc, it’s simply brilliant!

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Lovely Lively Lisbon

A friend that I met on the G Adventures tour in Peru moved to Lisbon.  So together with another friend that I met on the tour in Peru, we travelled to meet up and unofficially celebrate our 6 month anniversary (we didn’t realise this till we were all sitting around and playing the card game “shit head” – as it reminded us of Peru!)

We stayed in the neighbourhood of Saldanha – which is a more residential area. Getting here from the airport is super easy and cheap. We used the metro which only cost us €1.90! Note: taxis are also relatively cheap compared to other cities… We stayed in an apartment from airbnb.com and it was absolutely fantastic! Our host was lovely and showed us around the apartment. Just down the road from where we were staying, there was a cycling cafe called Velocite Cafe, the staff were very friendly and the cafe itself was very tastefully decorated (as a cyclist from Cambridge, I can appreciate pretty bicycles)

We were quite lucky to have a friend who was a local – it’s much nicer seeing a city through a locals eyes…. We had dinner and I ofcourse went for something that had Bacalhau (salted cod fish), so I had the Bacalhau lasagna – YUM!

Over the next few days we explored downtown Lisbon – Commercio Square was very grand and you get a nice view of the bridge (25 Abril) from here. Yes it’s the bridge that looks like the one in San Francisco. AND my friends actually told me that it used to be named after a dictator but now the name changed to 25 Abril to mark the revolution (now thats some trivia for you!).

My friends and I have very VERY sweet tooths – so we mostly ate our way through the city! There is a place called LX Factory (X is pronounced as “sheesh” in Portuguese) which is an old manufacturing district that has been transformed into a hispter place full of design, cafes, restaurants and book stores. We had the worlds BEST chocolate cake here – believe it or not the cafe ONLY sells this cake! it was yummylicious!!! The place is called Landeau Chocolate  trust me you won’t be disappointed. The LX Factory also has an awesome book store – the interior design is AMAZING! I think I saw that it was one of the most beautiful book stores in the world (or something like that). It’s definitely worth a visit, it’s called Ler Devagar.

Our friend also took us to Mercado de Ribeira which is basically a foodie heaven! We obviously went for something sweet… I had a divine caramel cake from Nos E Mais Bolos – oh so good! But they have other stuff here, as in really good food and coffee!

Besides eating, we did see other cultural aspects of Lisbon… We went to Sintra, but unfortunately the weather wasn’t so good and it was all foggy. We didn’t see the amazing view atop the mountain – we could barely see the exterior of the castle! We also went to Gulbenkian Museum – which was only a short walk from our apartment. We actually went on a Sunday – free admission YEH! The museum had alot of painted tiles, ornaments, rugs and clothing from the Ottoman Empire. But there were also artworks from Monet and Renoir – among other artists whom I can’t recall… It’s worth visiting on a Sunday if the weather is poor…

The city has also an aqueduct – which I simply didn’t know how to capture, it’s so grand! There is an elevator in the city (grey tower like structure) we didn’t go up, because there are other nicer view points, plus the line was really long and you had to pay for it! Instead we went up to the fortress – didn’t do inside but the streets were nice and the view is also nice from here. We explored the Parque das Nacoes area and coincidentally there was a triathlon that day! There is also a very very long bridge around here called the Ponte Vasco da Gama – it’s 17km long!

Definitely recommend visiting Lisbon – the city has a lot to do and it is very easy to get around: the metro system works well and takes you to all the major places downtown and it’s relatively cheap.

BIG SHOUT OUT to my friend Claudia for showing us around – Lisbon was a great experience with you! Alex thanks for being a chillaxed and great travel buddy – till the next adventure!

 

Spring time in Göppingen

Göppingen is located in the German state of Baden-Württemberg in the southwest of Germany. I was in the region for a work conference – which was actually held in a castle (Bad Liebenzell) in the Schwarzwald (Blackforest). However, due to work commitments, I wasn’t able to snap any shots except TWO! In any case, you should definitely go to Bad Liebenzell if you have a chance – it’s a quaint little town with clean air to help you relax…. they also have thermal springs in case you’re interested…

After my conference was over, I visited family in Göppingen. It’s a nice town – quite large for German standards actually. It has a main pedestrianised shopping street and has a number of parks and churches in the surroundings.

I was lucky that I was there during spring – there were a lot of blossoms in full bloom. It was actually quite warm whilst I was there, so the parks were full of people enjoying the sun and children were playing games.

One of the things that I love about Germany is the houses – they are amazing! Most people have flowers on their windows which they take great pride in. Given that I was here during spring, I tried to capture these during my time in Göppingen….

Cambridge vs Oxford Boat Race

A few weeks ago, on a bright sunny day in April, I went into London for the big boat race: Cambridge vs Oxford. It was such a great day out on Thames – ofcourse minus the fact that Cambridge didn’t win ANYTHING…!!! Nevertheless, it was great seeing the University spirit and more so, seeing the women’s side being able to compete for the first time ever on the same day as the men. You see previously the women’s race would take place in Henley and there wasn’t as much “hype” as there was for the men’s race. It was really nice to see this (girl power…!!)