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).
P1000520
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.
P1000517
The elevator of Santa Just can be seen in the distance

P1000525.JPG

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

P1000524.JPG

P1000519
Best view ever (pun fully intended)

P1000566

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.

P1000487

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

IMG_20170407_142613.jpg
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.

P1000674
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.

P1000592.JPG

IMG_20170406_195751.jpg
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

Perushtitsa | The Red Church in Black & White

Did you know that one of the earliest surviving Christian churches in Europe is located near the small Bulgarian town of Perushtitsa?

P1020091.JPG

Continue reading “Perushtitsa | The Red Church in Black & White”

Beautiful Bulgaria | Weekend in the Rhodope Mountains

 I had the pleasure to take Panasonic FZ2000 & DMC LX15 on a trip to the Rhodope mountains

to test their capabilities. The photos in this story are taken with these 2 cameras and only adjusted for brightness/saturation.

P1070575

Reservoirs, lakes & gorges | The beautiful Rhodope Mountains

According to the Thracian legend Rhodopa and Hemus were a brother and sister who fell in love and called each other by the names of the Gods: Zeus and Hera. And since Ancient Greek Deities are not famous for their good temper, the abuse of their names brought on a curse on the young couple: both lovers turned into mountain ranges. Of course, geologists have a slightly different idea about the formation of the mountain range.

The Rhodope Mountains takes up 1/7th of the territory of Bulgaria and features ski slopes,  caves, historical cities and villages, hiking routes and some of Bulgaria’s biggest reservoirs & artificial lakes.

P1070689.JPG

Unlike Rila, which is swarming with tourists (to the detriment of the area’s ecosystem), the Rhodope Mountains still manage to preserve their raw charm and offer travellers a serene look into Bulgarian nature, history and traditions.

Things to do & Places to visit

P1070672.JPG
Zooming to the distant shore | Shot on Panasonic FZ2000

Continue reading “Beautiful Bulgaria | Weekend in the Rhodope Mountains”

Things to do near Sofia | A walk along the Dragoman Marsh

If you are fond of outdoors activities and especially birdwatching, take the time to visit the Dragoman Marsh. Located just 35-40km away from Sofia, this area is part of Via Aristotelis: an important bird migration route passing through the area. In fact more than 160 bird species have been identified by bird watchers visiting the marshes along with dozens of amphibians and other species.

P1070536.JPG
Marshes, marshes, everywhere you look | Shot on LUmix FZ2000

In February birdwatching isn’t the best activity to plan, but the marshes still offer an escapist break away from the noisy city. The marsh itself covers more than 300 hectars but the most easily accessible to the general public area is relatively small: only several hundred meters of wooden bridges serpent their way through the marsh frail.

So unless you are into exploring the 160+ species of birds and plant species this trip would be relatively short. Me and my brother spent less than an hour there because there were no birds at this time of the year. Nevertheless, we were quite happy to explore the place and take some shots in the area.

Continue reading “Things to do near Sofia | A walk along the Dragoman Marsh”

Valencia | Love is in the air

p1070040b

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?

p1070036c

Continue reading “Valencia | Love is in the air”

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.

p1070073

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.

p1070076

Continue reading “Valencia | The City of Arts & Sciences and the Beautiful Gardens of Turia”

Valencia | Girl Trip on Bikes

How do five people with completely different plans make an easy decision what to do on a trip? Well, quite easy actually. It is my second time in Valencia so I know exactly what I want to see with my best (girl)friend and it is Stef’s second Moto GP race so the boys have planned their weekend as well. What follows is a great girls trip + great boys trip until afternoon and joint operation with sangria in the evening.

But let’s focus on the gir trip schedule. One of the best things out there is to travel with someone similar enough to you that you can quickly sort anything out and different enough so each of you gets an extra sprinkle of unexpected fun and entertainment. Continue reading “Valencia | Girl Trip on Bikes”