In Love with Lisbon | Above the city: spots with a great view

Lisbon is a time machine. Living simultaneously in Portugal’s glorious historical past and its more recent economic struggles. A city of contrasts, it grabs you by the heart and doesn’t let go. From our first glimpse of the city from Marqes de Pombal to the last dinner in Alfama: it is stamped on a pile of great wine-infused memories.
One of my favorite things about the city was definitely its layout. Like a small European version of San Francisco the streets run like serpents: high and low across town, shaping several elevated areas from which you can enjoy wonderful views of the area. Some of these spots are full of tourists, others are small local gems, which you have to find on your own.
Here are several of the best ones (and you don’t need to queue for the Elevador Santa Justa to see them).
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The Moorish castle of Sao Jorge is not a palace: it is a fortress with beautiful views from the watchtowers with very limited number of museum collections inside. There is more to see outside than within the castle: apart from a tiny small archeological exhbition of ceramics and Moorish coins.
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The elevator of Santa Just can be seen in the distance

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However, the location allows you to enjoy Lisbon from above. The Portuguese way would be with a good company and a glass of wine.

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Best view ever (pun fully intended)

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Some people swarm in visitor crowds, others enjoy reading their book in solutide while overlooking the city. Couples breathe the serenity of the view, locking hands around each other or around glasses of white wine. Some stick only to sunset conversations, while others try a crossover straight to Sunset Boulevard…

Sao Jorge is open for visitors until 9pm so I would really recommend it for a late afternoon walk. It is definitely worth the hemstring challenge of the steep streets leading to it: especially if you stumble upon some of the small staircases with street musicians and Fado-themed graffitti. It is also above the charming neighbourhood of Alfama, so you can combine the visit with a dinner and Fado.

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Park Bar: (A sort of) Secret Spot Above the City

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Panorama of the Park Bar | Shot on Huawei P9

I learned about the Park bar online and I don’t think it is a place which is easy to discover by chance. It is in a quiter part westward of the busier streets of Bairro Alto: without the exact address, a map and a mighty thirst to quench we would have easily passed it by. There are no signs outside and to reach the bar you have to use the staircase of a 5 storey parking.

On the top of the building there is a small bohemian oasis which opens after 1pm and offers a rooftop space to chill in the middle of your city walk.

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Rooftops, seaguls and airplanes: Lisbonian idyll shot from the top of the parking lot. A piece of advice: the Park Bar opens at 13.00: do not arrive there earlier unless you are really into getting sunburnt | Shot on Lumix Gx8

I recommend the fresh and fruity housewine and the tapas (petiscos) with shrimps or garlic calamary (Delicous!) You can go with friends or just hang out on your own: reading or writing & getting your inspiration from the view above town.

Bairro Alto at Night

“Bairro” is the name of communities/neighbourhood regions in Portugal and its colonies. The name Bairro Alto literally means The Upper District of Lisbon: a neighbourhood full of restaurants and bars located across a set of steep streets slowly ascending to small hill overlooking the lower part of the city.

We were joking that basically your evening follows the geography of the streets: you start with Petiscos (the Portuguese version of tapas) and dinner at the “lower” streets and then as your mood goes up, you continue on the upper streets with wine, Porto or Ginja (typical local sour cherry liqueur). You can simply enjoy the taste of local drinks or dive into a pool of cheap vodka and complimentary shots if you are a British tourist on a mission to crawl drunk on the sidewalk by midnight.

I recommend just walking around with sangria and enjoying the view: the bars are full of too many wasted tourists: something which is fun when you are in your 20s and frankly: sort of boring once you discover the joy of actually having fun without the need of tons of alcohol.

There is a lovely small park with fountains and terraces overlooking the city if you want to enjoy your drink with a view above the city.

Alfama (going up on Travessa Merceeiras)

Alfama is a whole new story on its own. Discovering  the dozens of small city spots with a great view on your own is one of the greatest thrills about walking around Lisbon.

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Creamy sunset over Alfama | Shot on Huawei P9

Practical Tips

Sao Jorge Castle entrance fees: €8.50/€5.00/€20.00 per adult/child/family. The castlelo is open every day from 09:00 to 21:00 (peak season) and 09:00 to 18:00 (low season) | Google Maps
✓There are wonderful spots all across Lisbon which I personally prefer to discover by chance, but if you prefer to visit only recommended places here is a nice Conde Nast list of some of the best rooftop bars in the city
✓Lisbon is not a huge city: unless you want to enjoy the small vintage trams just walk around it. It is easier and faster to take public tansportation but the most charming spots are usually those you stumble upon by chance not those you meticulously pursue on your GPS

Disclaimer: With the exception of a few mobile shots made with my Huawei P9, all photos are taken on Panasonic GX8, kindly provided for a test by Panasonic Bulgaria

Travelback Thursday | You can never see the same Venice twice

I remember my first arrival in Venice. The boat was shaking and so were we. Although winters in Italy are usually a pleasant thing, La Serenissima (the most serene of all cities) is often piereced by cold currents which can cut to the bone.

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I remeber everyone who had already been there had completely conflicting stories of what the city is like:

“Oh, it’s overrated. And the channels smell so bad”

“It is the best city in the world: never seen anything quite like the Carnival”

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So which one was it? Well, for me it was love at first sight. It can be a bit claustrophobic if you get phased by large crowds but as soon as you take a random street in the opposite direction of Rialto and San Marco you will soon discover the real charm of the city. As an art history buff I don’t underestimate Venice’s most famous spots, but trust me: its real appeal is away from the crowds.

Grab a gelato and choose the smallest, emptiest street you can find. Getting lost in Venice is a travelling delight and trust me: sooner or later you will reach the central spots again.

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Alpine Winter Tale | Snowboarding in Sölden

The last few winters in Bulgaria were a barren ground for skiers and snowboarders in Bulgaria. The limited snowfall and high temperatures made wintersports a contest in who is going to get the best blue-purple gradient certificate for painful landings on rocks barely covered with snow.

This year things look quite different, but if one wants to have guaranteed fun in the snow, the Alps are the destination to go. There are countless alpine resorts in Italy, France, Austria, Germany, you name it. 

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Sölden, Austria

Yoddl, yoddl! Does it get any more Austrian than being in the heart of Tyrol? The lovely small city of Solden has just about 3 000 inhabitants, but it lies at the outskirts of 33 (!) lifts and 40 ski/snowboarding trails of varying difficulty.

It was one of the most enjoyable, well organized and neat spots for snowboarding I have ever visted: from conventional slopes, through fun parks and mountain-top views. I have heard that there are no less plesant spots in other Alpine resorts, but Solden is perfect for combining historical sight-seeing in the nearby city of Innsbruck. On your way back you can also visit beautiful Saltzburg, which is about 250km to the Northeast (more on that in the following posts).

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The Best Travel Moments of 2016

It’s been a long (and not always easy) year, but upon looking back: all the though moments were worth it. And thankfully: there have been a lot of positive experiences together with friends and family to fill the year with some great vibes. Here are the best things about my Year in Travel:

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The Inception of Redhead Explorer

I’ve been sharing photos and travel stories in other places for quite a while but this year I realized that the pleasure I get from travelling and the milleage across Bulgaria and abroad are big enough to have their own place under the (online) sun. There is still a looot of work left, but the blog has been my chief creative outlet and source of positive emotions this year.

All over Bulgaria

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It will be hard to list all places we’ve seen, so I will just drop here my list of the Top 5 Bulgarian destinations for 2016: from the lakes of Dospat and Belmaken to the amazing Belogradchik Rocks.

First time in Italy together

Stef and I have travelled all over the place together, but we still had not visited Italy until this year, which is a shame because it is a country way too dear to my heart. We managed to visit Bologna, Florence, Rimini, Imola, Scarperia/Mugello, had one of the most memorable walks & talks ever in the Boboli gardens and had the best street food near one of my favourite museums the Uffizi. Stef visited the monument of one of his all time heroes Ayrton Senna and we saw Valentino Rossi on his trademark circuit Mugello.And we captured (a cliched) but truly beautiful full moon over Ponte Vechhio which felt like living in a painting or a postcard

Paragliding over Sopot

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My mom was so thrilled to learn I was about to jump from a cliff with a paragliding instuctor…. After I forgot to call her for an hour after landing she was even more thrilled :)) (Read more)

Visiting Valencia again + best friends

Renting bikes for a trip to the beach, eating paella, trying the best Argentinian steaks and enjoying a Spanish version of La Dolce Vita together + 3 best friends= great experience

Wedding in the remote mountains

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No words can describe this event, so I won’t even try :))

Visiting the Rila Monastery during the Summer School in Cognitive Science

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It is so great to spend time with people who are not only fun and friendly but also incredibly smart and have all these obscure, geeky interests. I’ve seen the Monastery a zillion times but the company on this trip was a whole new story. I also discovered that somehow magically I can translate from Portuguese into English just by finding the similiraties between Portugues and Italian words!

First lesson in Horse-Riding

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I always enjoy trying new sports and horse-riding was definitely one of the most enjoyable experiments during the year

The Annual Motorbike Trip to Greece

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Wonderful food, crystal clear water : Greece is always a summer delight. This year it also provided some extra thrills for us as a huge storm welcomed us on the highway on the way back and almost turned over the bike! I’ve never been through anything like this and I hope I will never experience it again. Chills and thrills all over

Meeting Isabella Shopova in person

I am a big fan of Isabella Shopova: a Bulgarian travel-blogger-turned-book-author who has spent years living in New Zealand and Australia. I have all her books and I just love her writing style: light, funny and in the same time: informing you in depth about the history and nature of the places she visits. In person she is exactly what she is like in her books: witty, intelligent, full of humor, self-irony and remarkable bravery. Lovely and inspiring woman, who presented her new book dedicated to a trip to the Bulgarian Antarctic Base!

When I grow up I would like to be like her 🙂 ❤

Did I mention her ultimate destination is Mars? Definitely my type of woman!

 

Travel Portraits | The People of Valencia

Pictures speak louder than words so I will just leave you with some portaits of the people I saw across town. This is by no means an exhaustive list but it captures some of the city’s many faces.

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Valencia | Love is in the air

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One of the things I love the most about travel is the fact that you can stumble upon the most incredible situations and people just like that. Not that unusual things don’t happen to me all the time in Sofia, but when you travel you get that extra sparkle of spontaneity.

So here we are: riding bikes aroung the city and we pass near a ballerina jumping in the air for a photoshoot…Wait…What?

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Valencia | The City of Arts & Sciences and the Beautiful Gardens of Turia

The City of Arts & Sciences

In the late 80s and early 90s the idea of a local professior of history of science (Mr. José María López Piñero) to build a museum dedicated to science near the Garden of Turia slowly started to attract the attention of local authorities. After some debates (and controversy due to the substantial expenses) the project turned into reality when the first buidling of the complex (L’Hemisferic) was opened in 1998.

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Swimming in the sea of knowledge

Marine life seems to have been a great inspiration for the architects who built the City of Arts & Sciences: apart from the obvious connection with the nearby Oceanographic museum and the abundance of water: El Museu de les Ciencies Principe Felipe resembles the skeleton of a whale and the building of the Oceanographic museum, the Palace of Arts Reina Sofia and L’Agora all look like magnificent sea creatures trying to swim their way to the surfacace.

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