Brussels: What I did and why I got mixed feelings about it

Hey guys,

I used to think that there’s no such thing as high expectations for a trip,  but here’s the newsflash:  Brussels proved me wrong with a slap on the face! I thought a lot about what I would write in this article – I didn’t know wether to write it as a travel guide or if I should let you know my personal experience, because the truth was: I went to Belgium but I didn’t like it that much.

I went to Brussels to see a few friends and that was absolutely awesome, but the idea I had about the city changed as soon as I saw that dirty-looking city filled with rude people instead of a beautiful fairytale city.

The bad experience began when I arrived to the airport and the train to the city center – which is a really short distance – was expensive AF ! Then I thought that the most spoken language (including the direction signs) would be in english, or at least in french, but surprise: the speakers on the train were in dutch and there was no sign what so ever of anything being in english – Panic! I felt kind of unwelcome,  like they don’t like receiving tourists…

I know people have different backgrouds and we should be open to other cultures, I personally think I’m quite open-minded, but I think Brussels has such negative vibes! Instead of the cultural diversity and the beautiful streets I was expecting, I saw a dirty city, with “bad looking people” (they look quite rude and too into their own world) going around, taxi drivers who want to overcharge us, mediocre food… In the first time in my life, I didn’t like a city, which is a shame because Brussels for itself is beautiful! It has so much to offer! Beautiful architecture, lovely beer and nice things to visit…

Despite all those incidents, and the “shock” towards this city that destroyed my expectations, I managed to have fun and to visit a few things in this short weekend.

 

So here’s a list of what I did, saw and advise youin Brussels

 

Grand Place

This is probably the more iconic square of Brussels. During the day, it is full of life! People are running around, there are a lot of terraces where you can sit drinking a coffee and relaxing, and it has beautiful buildings to look at. You can’t miss it!

 

 

Manneken Pis

This is literally a statue of a boy peeing into a fountain, which is weird but a landmark of the city so, you have to visit 🙂

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Beer taste at Delirium Café

Belgium is known for its marvelous beer and this caffe is quite popular for having a huge amount of beers – it has held the Guinness record for having the longest beer list ever, selling beers from all over the world. So it is the ultimate place for you to have a beer taste, or at list it deserves a visit for just one beer.

 

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Food:  Waffle, Chocolat and Fries

Well duh! When in Belgium, have a waffle! I had this amazing waffle in a little shop in the city center, which is filled with stores like that, and it is impossible to resist if you’re a sweet tooth like me! This country is well known for its wonderful chocolat as well, and let me tell you that this one really meets expectations. If you are looking for good quality chocolat, I advise you Godiva, the best artisanal chocolat shop. Fries are a typical belgium food as well, you can find it everywhere.

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Atomium 

The atomium is quite recent and it is located bit far away from the city center, you can either see it from outside or take a visit inside (12€ per adult). I took the tour and really liked it, it is very interesting. As you walk through the tubes and spheres, there are a few exibhits about the fifties (When it was built) and when you get to the top, there’s a really nice panoramic view of the city.

 

 

Day trip to Brugge

This little city made my visit to Belgium super worthy… It looks like a village that you read about in a book, very fairytale like. It has beautiful buildings, charming streets and canals and amazing restaurants! It is just one hour away from Brussels and the ticket costs around 10eur – it’s a day very well spent!

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BRUGES

Despite all the incidents, I actually liked my trip to Belgium, not only because it allowed me to see my international friends again, but because it thought me everything can be enjoyed even if many things go wrong. Remember: It is essential to prepare your trip in advance, remain positive and see the bright side of everything 🙂

 

Lots of Love, 

Catarina

Vienna Bucket List: 11 things to do

Hello there!

While I was an exchange student  in a village of Lower Austria,  I got the chance to visit Vienna a few times. This city has many sides and a lot to offer! It is  beautiful, with breathtaking buildings, filled with music, art and people from all over the world. It is definitely something special. So here’s a short travel guide to visit some basic monuments and some different places in the capital of Austria.

1. Visit Schonbrunn Palace and Gloriette

This one is definitely my favorite monument in Vienna. It is known for being Princess Sissi’s Palace and it is just glorious! The tour inside the palace is payed – you should definitely check it out, if you have the chance – but you can visit the gardens for free, they are beautiful and there is a great viewpoint from the gloriette.

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2. Take a picture of Rathaus

This is one of the most imposing and tall buildings in Vienna, it is quite beautiful on its own but you can also go up and have an amazing view over the city.

3. Comtemplate St. Sephen’s Cathedral

This famous cathedral is a gothic landmark of Vienna. If you go to the top, you can see the whole city, specificaly Stephansplatz, which name obviously comes from the cathedral,

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4. Get lost in Freud Museum

Don’t miss the chance to visit Freud’s former office, to see all the old objects and to learn a bit about his life and work.

5. Check out the Naschmarkt 

This is one of the most amazing markets I’ve visited, it is quite big and it has a big variety of stores and tents, from souvenirs to pubs, restaurants, spice shops, etc. It is a great spot to have lunch or just enjoy a glass of vino verde or kaiserspritzer, two typical beverages from Austria. This one is definitely worth a look.

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6. Grab a bite Museumquartier

This city has a lot of interesting museums all around, but this area in particular is a must visit, even if you aren’t going to any museum. This is a perfect place to grab something to eat and chill out in the sun. If you do like museums, you shouldn’t miss the natural history museum or MUMOK, if you are into art.

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7. Walk around in  Stadtpark

who doesn’t love parks? This is a beautiful park to take a walk, wether is sunny or not. Here you will find fountains, statues and a nice statue.

 

8. Have fun in the Prater

Prater is a great theme park that has the oldest big wheels in the world. Tbe entrance is free, you only pay for the rides you go on,  so you can j just walk around or go in some rides. If it’s spring or summer don’t miss the water rides, they’re super fun!.

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9. Enjoy a concert in the Vienna State Opera House

A great part of Vienna’s culture is music, so if you like opera or classical music don’t miss the chance to see a live show.

 

10. Eat an Apfelstrudel in a Coffeehouse

When in Vienna be Vienese ! This is the most classic austrian thing to do. Go to those old coffee houses and have that delicious apple pie and a cappucino, it feels great specially during the winter.

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11. Pay tribute to old musicians in Wiener Zentralfriedhof

I know this may sound creepy but this is the cemitery where a lot of famous musicians are buried (e.g. Beethoven and Brahms). It is weirdly nice and interesting.

 

This are the things I found most interesting in Vienna, but of course, this city has a lot more you can see and do to such as Belvedere, Rigstrasse or Hofburg. Besides that, do not miss the chance to eat some austrian goodies like schintzel, kaiserschmarrn or goulash! Hope this post was helpful 🙂

 

Lots of Love,

Catarina

Continue reading “Vienna Bucket List: 11 things to do”

Travel hacks: How to save money on food while traveling

Hello there!

I think everybody knows that food is one of the biggest expenses while travelling, so based on my own experience I will share some tips with you and show how I save money  without starving when I’m on a foreign country Continue reading “Travel hacks: How to save money on food while traveling”

Clink78: The coolest hostel I’ve stayed in my life

Hey!

My purpose with this blog is to guide you when travelling to the places I’ve been to, so despite there are websites and apps to review hostels, I thought that it would be interesting to share my experience at Clink78 with you, because that hostel is something, trust me.

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As I told before, I went to London for a flash birthday trip with my boyfriend. As I was looking for accommodation, and I couldn’t find any cheap hotel deals (does that even exist in London?!),  I heard about Clink78 through a friend that had stayed there.

As soon as I started checking the reviews and Clink’s Instagram and Facebook, I immediately knew I had to stay there. They have such a nice engagement with costumers! They share recommendations and tips for travelling to the cities they’re in and they promote activities on their bar (yeah, they have a bar!) every night.

There are two Clinks in London and both of them are really well located – near King’s Cross Station. I stayed at Clink78, which has some nice markets and restaurants around, which might come in handy.

The hostel is located in an old courthouse – how awesome is that! – and it has some rooms that were adapted to keep the old decoration, so this makes it almost a magical spot. For example, there’s a room to hang out and watch tv or work, with the old tables and sits, which a found very cool and original ! Inside, it had some really cute details, full of lights and colors. Its target is obviously young travelers and that shows – all of us are there to have a good time! There’s a really chill environment all around, even everyone in the staff is super nice and outgoing.

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As I got to the hostel, I got a big welcome from the girl in the reception who was so nice, she even yelled “it’s your birthday!!”, and all the staff in general was very helpful and nice. They even offered coupons for free drinks at the bar (not sure if they still do) to everyone who checked in, and they upgraded mine for any drink I wanted because of my birthday. That is a nice way to win my friendship :p

About the room, they have some pretty cool mixed rooms with capsules and prison cells, but I stayed in a double private room with bathroom. Even though it is a little small, it was enough for the both of us and it was quite simple and functional. The bed was comfortable and there were some shelfs to put our stuff, but it was a shame that there was no “extra” space to put our coats and luggage, like a cabinet or hangers, as we were there only for two nights, it was not a big deal. The bathroom was small as well, but it was really peculiar, it was like a capsule.

Clink offers a regular continental breakfast with coffee, toast , milk, cereal etc, which was plenty for me. It is held in the same area where the bar works at night, but it was perfectly clean and there was a lot of space to sit and hang out.

It is a super cool hostel to stay for a few days, specially because all the staff is so kind and the hostel is really well located. Plus, the Wifi worked really well (which is a miracle in any hostel!)

Lots of Love,

Catarina

 

Oporto Weekend Escape

Hello!

Seeing that I haven’t been to Oporto since I was really small and I didn’t remember anything, I decided to revisit it with my boyfriend. And I’m glad I did.

Even though the city is trending, my expectations were not that high, for some reason I don’t even now why, but boy was I wrong! I adored Oporto, it is such a charming city, people are so nice and it is very much affordable (more than Lisbon!). I spent two days there and it was enough to see the majority of things, but I would definitely come back.

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Guess what I did first? Food of course! Since we arrived at lunch time, and our h
otel was pretty close to Cafe Santiago, one of the best places to eat the famous Francesinha, an original dish from Oporto which I told you about before .

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We then went through Rua de Santa Catarina – if you go there, make  sure you check the notorious Café Majestic, which has a beautiful architecture but is super expensive (3€ for a coffee is a little too much for me). We also tried to go to Bolhão Market but sadly it was closed because it was Saturday afternoon. Usually it is filled with fresh fruit and vegetables, and it has this very typical ladies yelling to costumers to sell.

We walked in the center until we arrived to S. Bento train station, which I know it’s quite an unusual place to see but it is magnificent, its walls are filled with tiles and it’s just amazing.

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From there we headed to Sé do Porto, which has an INCREDIBLE view. believe me , you can see the whole city from there, just stunning. Then we came down to Cais da Ribeira, through the traditional narrow streets that had  clothes hanging, and I just loved it! So typical and charming!

After we arrived to Cais da Ribeira and took a walk along the river,  we were a bit tired so we decided to rest in this awesome bar named Cais that had great and cheap cocktails (totally recommend !). We then went to take a boat ride through Douro River to see the 6 Bridges, which is mandatory in this city. The majority of this trips is sold all across town, you can get many deals and they usually include a Port tasting. We payed 15€ for a 50min ride and a tasting in Gaia (just across the S.Luís Bridge). We went to the Porto Cruz winery, which sadly didn’t had the cellar, but it had a great rooftop with a perfect view over Oporto

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At the end of the day, we went to have dinner is this great restaurant called “Venham Mais 5” (bring me 5 more, in english) which is quite recent and trendy apparently. They are known for their “prego” with queijo da serra, which is a popular portuguese dish, basically it’s bread with (really rare) beef and this one is special because t has one of our most famous cheeses, and it is just heaven! As I’m a sucker for desserts, (#sorrynotsorry) I had to have the special chocolat merengue cake and it’s so perfect!!!

The next morning we went to the place I wanted to go the most in Oporto: Livraria Lello! You might have heard about it. This bookshop is more than a 100 years old and it inspired J.K. Rowling  to write about some scenarios, when she was living in Oporto. I believe that Barnes and Nobles was created due to it. The shop is always full of people, which was a disapointment for me, I mean I knew it was gonna be a lot of people, but I didn’t thought it would be that much… I couldn’t even take a good photo. I advice you to go there either early or very late…

Right next to Livraria Lello, it’s the most obvious and imponent monument in Oporto: Clerigos Tower, it is impressive how big it is! It was considered world patrimony, so do check it out.

After that,  we went to the beautiful Cristal gardens, which are really worth to check out-They have a beautiful lake with swans and you get the most breathtaking view over the Douro river. Really stunning.

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If you are into art, you will want to go to Serralves Museum and Gardens, which is a bit far of the city center, you would have to take transportation but it is a great museum and those gardens are really beautiful. I was suppose to go, but that day was pouring rain so I just gave up. They always have great exhibits

Long story short: Oporto is a beautiful city, a capital of culture, people are super nice and it has great food and drinks. It is totally affordable and I recommend it to everyone. So, GO THERE.

Lots of Love,

Catarina