Culture and Colonialism in Singapore.

Today we didn’t have any big plans, and instead decided to roam the City for interesting sights at random.

After an amazing breakfast again at the Park Royal we stepped out into the sunshine of Singapore once again. The only problem was that it almost immediately began to pour down with rain, after a quick check we were close to the national history museum, so decided to check out a bit of Singapore’s past.

The museum itself was fascinating and I really enjoyed learning more about Singapore’s history. Once we had made our way through how Singapore began, colonialism, the 2nd world war and modern Singapore we felt very knowledgeable. There were loads of cool installations to show you how Singapore has evolved too.

The best part of the museum was still to come though, an installation celebrating Singapore’s commitment to wildlife preservation. This involved a swirling light display that you walked through, it was completely magical and ended in a large room where you could lie back on bean bags and enjoy the forest around you.

Upon leaving the museum the rain had subsided and we found that Fort Canning Hill was nearby. Full of history and where locals believe the old kings of Singapore were buried, it’s believed to be haunted. However we didn’t spot any spooky goings on as we walked around and checked out the various sights.

Apparently Sir Stamford Raffles built his residence on the hill, and it was also the site of a fort built by the British. There were a couple of nice colonial buildings dotted around and it was pleasant to walk through the shade in the middle of the day.

From here we headed down towards the neo-classical old hill street police station, a historical building with interesting architecture. We quickly stopped for lunch and made a plan for our next stop, Chinatown. The Chinese and their culture is interwoven with Singapore’s and we had a great time wandering the streets and taking in the sights, smells and sounds of the busy district.

We checked out the Buddha tooth relic temple, where they unsurprisingly have a tooth which they claim is from Buddha himself. The actual building was amazing too, all red and gold. Then we walked around Thian Hock Keng, a gorgeous Chinese temple with towering skyscrapers looming above it.

Suddenly it started to rain again, so we found a little bar to stop for a couple of beers and waited for it to stop. We were now attempting to go full circle so took a route through the business district past huge buildings and back towards the hotel. Due to the F1 track being placed we missed out on a couple of colonial buildings, but did manage to see St Andrew’s cathedral and the war memorial park.

We walked through and you could get a real feel of what Singapore must have been like in colonial times, they even still have the old cricket pitch!


After taking a dip in the hotel pool and relaxing for a couple of hours we took advantage of the free drinks and food at the bar before heading to nearby Arab st, full of hawkers selling middle eastern goods and a beautiful mosque, from here we ended up on Haji Lane, a really cool little street filled with bars and restaurants. There was live music filling the place, prices were reasonable and it had some amazing street art.

Tomorrow we were up early to hit Singapore zoo and the night Safari, so we had an early-ish night back at the hotel.

How to spend a weekend getaway in Hamburg, Germany.

Hamburg is only around an hour and a half from most major UK airports. Germany’s second largest City, it lies in northern Germany just south of the Danish border. It’s famous for it’s canals and waterways, typical German architecture and slightly seedy red light district! Here are some tips on what to see, where to go and what to eat.

Explore Strandkai and Hafencity

Wander through the old warehouse district, with bridges criss-crossing the water ways it makes for some great photos.

You can also check out the modern Elbphilharmonie building, it’s free to enter and you can get great views of the City from up there.

Miniatur Wunderland is also located here, it’s a bizarre mix of central Europe’s most famous sights mixed with top industrial spots. It’s actually quite fun to walk around and there are some weird sights to find. It gets pretty busy so it’s good to book in advance.

Walk along the promenade and grab a beer and bratwurst, we got a great German hotdog from here and sat in deck chairs looking out over the water.

Rathaus and Aubenalster lake

Check out the beautiful Rathaus (town hall) and take some time to relax in the market square in front before taking a walk around Aubenalster lake for amazing views and a break from the bustling City.

Reeperbahn

For an interesting night life head to the busy Reeperbahn, filled with bars it’s the Cities Red light district. I’m not going to lie and some parts were pretty seedy, but it’s also just a good night out. We ended up singing in a Thai karaoke bar after doing a mini pub crawl down the street.

Wander around Sternschanze

This bohemian neighborhood is full of vintage shops and cool bars/eateries and a good way to spend a morning. On Saturdays they have a great market popup to visit! There’s also interesting street art to find.

Take a boat tour of the waterways

We did late evening tour, it took us around the shipyard and docks which wasn’t so exciting but entering the City waterways was definitely worth the wait.

Top places to eat in Hamburg

We found so many nice places, first off my best advice is to stop at any little place for bratwurst and currywurst, they’re a mainstay of quality and good for a quick and easy lunch.

Xeom Vietnamese

We love Vietnamese food and this place couldn’t do it any better, the whole vibe made us feel like we were back in Vietnam and the food was incredible and full of that flavour that the Vietnamese are famous for.

Pizza Bande

Hidden away just off the Reeperbahn, this place does the most amazing Pizza, you just order your toppings from the extensive menu and they cook it from scratch right in front of you. Mix that with a good selection of beers and a bohemian vibe makes this place a little gem in an otherwise slightly seedy area.

Brooklyn Burger Bar

We were a bit hungover and craving something really messy and dirty and this restaurant served it up for us. Loads of burger choices, excellent fries and most importantly, tasty dips to accompany it all. We loved the décor here, the friendliness of the staff and it was busy which is always a good sign. The food was delicious too, with huge portions.

That’s how you spend a few fun filled days in Hamburg. I’d love to go again in the Summer when they have their artificial beaches and bars out on the waterfront. It’s a cool City and a cheap destination if you’re looking to get away for a weekend.

Lets face it, who doesn’t love a big German sausage?

Singapore slingin’ and supertree groovin’. 

We were up this morning for a quick and easy breakfast at the hotel in Kuala Lumpur ready to check out and take a taxi to the airport. It worked out just as cheap as taking the monorail and train and it’s much easier to travel this way sometimes.

Arriving at the airport it was an easy hour long flight to Singapore, I grabbed a quick 45 minute nap and awoke to what seemed like hundreds of ships surrounding the City. We landed and soon made our way through customs where we jumped in a taxi straight to our hotel for the next few days. Another Park Royal, this time on Beach road, so named because before land reclamation the beaches were found here.

We quickly checked in and freshened up, eager to get out and explore the City. It was hot and humid as we walked along beach road towards the famous Marina Bay. As we wandered along checking out the huge skyscrapers around us the heavens opened and it started to pour down with rain.

Taking shelter I took some Singapore dollars out and we hid in a little cafe having coffee and cake to perk us up. The rain soon subsided and we found ourselves a few minutes walk from the famous Raffles hotel. Raffles has existed here since Singapore was just an up and coming colonial outpost and is a Singaporean institution.

Unfortunately the exterior was being renovated, but one of the bars was still open, it was only lunch time but we were on holiday so thought we would treat ourselves to a Singapore Sling.

Supposedly invented at this hotel the Singapore Sling is a fruity gin concoction. I don’t think I’ll ever have a better one… it’s pretty pricey but worth every Singapore dollar. A bonus are the free monkey nuts, you even get to discard the shells onto the floor without even a raise of an eyebrow.

Once we had an early afternoon buzz from the gin the rain had stopped so we pointed ourselves in the direction of Marina Bay. Now this is the place that travel photographers will dream about, with the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel, the water lion statues, and the framing of the whole bay by skyscrapers, colonial buildings, and fancy architectural developments.

After enjoying seeing parts of the F1 tracks we diverged from out path to check out the Merlion fountain, the views over the bay from here are mesmerising and as good as I had imagined. It was exciting to think we would be on top of the huge ship-shaped hotel that looks over the bay.

After checking out the interestingly shaped theatre building we carried on along the promenade and across the cool Helix bridge to Marina Bay Sands. This was a little tease of what was to come as we stepped onto one of the walk ways above the reception area.

It was crazy to think we were staying there in a couple of nights! It was so cool, in more ways than one as we enjoyed the aircon. It was starting to get pretty humid outside and we enjoyed the change in temperature.

Emerging out onto the other side of the hotel we were hit with another incredible view, the whole reason we had planned the trip. Gardens by the Bay and the futuristic supertrees.

Everything had lived up to expectations so far and this was no exception. You could see for miles out to see past the tops of the trees and out to the Singapore Flyer across the bay.

The best part of the gardens is that it’s free! So we stopped and grabbed a refreshing drink and sat in the shade before wandering through lush vegetation and into the supertree grove.

The trees are actually living breathing factories, supplying the rest of the gardens with resources including water, electricity and cooling systems. They are around 16 storeys tall and you can take the lift up on to wander through the skywalk, taking in a different view from above and getting up close to the interesting plants found in the trees.

We were actually getting hungry at this point so taking a stroll along the waterfront we headed to Satay by the bay. This is a collection of food stalls where you can grab any number of things.

The food was pretty good and cheap, plus I got to try Cendol, a traditional shaved ice dessert made with mung bean and covered with various chewy sweets. It was so nice and refreshing in the heat, on our way back we did some otter hunting. The otters returned to Singapore in the 90s and have been flourishing ever since! Sadly we didn’t see any this time.

We headed to the two huge greenhouses that inhabit the gardens, these you do have to pay for and it’s around £15 for both of them. One is the cloud forest with a huge waterfall and plants all based around a central column you can climb up through and around. The second is the flower dome, full of different blooms all shapes and sizes.

We enjoyed this little guy, guarding all the pumpkins for autumn. They were nice to walk around and the amount of flowers and plant life was amazing.

I definitely enjoyed the cloud forest more, it was great seeing out over the supertree grove which was starting to light up ready for the evening show. Although I did enjoy the harvest showpiece in the flowerdome.

Every night there’s a show at the supertree grove, where the trees are lit up to different songs and music. It was an incredible moment and I loved every minute of it, once it was over we were pretty tired so headed back to the hotel for a night time swim in the pool and planning our second day in this amazing City.

Kuala Lumpur, 2 sides to the same coin. 

After an early morning swim, a bit of a lie in and some amazing breakfast in the orchid lounge we were ready to sightsee! 

The plan today was to visit the jungle top walkways, colonial district and Chinatown. Checking Google maps it looked like we could get to the TV tower and Eco park from a couple of monorail stops up. 

After walking for 15 minutes or turned out you couldn’t, but luckily we had been walking in the general direction of the colonial area, passing through a market street we came to a river with a mosque situated next to it, and could see the colonial buildings across from us. We jumped into a couple of shops on the way to get a quick aircon boost to cool down. 

After walking past a huge gold building we crossed a small bridge and made our way to Merdeka square, the centre of former British rule in this area. On 31st August 1957 the Malaysian flag was raised here and independence declared. 

The central area was unfortunately covered with seating….probably from the recent Asian games. We did a lap of the square, checking out St Mary’s cathedral and walking past the ultra exclusive selangor club. 

The history around KL is so cool, its definitely a melting pot of different cultures and styles. We sat in the square for a bit and I checked out a cool sounding walk in my lonely planet book, which would take us through Chinatown and towards the Eco forest. 

Setting off we walked back towards the river, taking a right and after walking through a couple of nice squares found ourselves at the entrance to Chinatown. 

There was a beautiful old building which housed a market, so we decided to wander through here and check out the trinkets and food. We stopped for a coffee and a rest and marvelled at the fabulous old building. 

Emerging back into the sunshine and heat our next destination, one of the oldest Chinese temples in KL was just a short walk away down an inconspicuous little side street. I think you could smell the incense before you could see the temple. Full of reds and golds it was beautiful as we wandered through and checked out the architecture and tradition. 

Carrying on our little tour we made it to the Sri Mahamariamman Hindu temple. Here we had to pop our shoes off before we could wander around the super colourful building and watch some of the rituals happening around us. It felt very sacred in here as we walked through in the cool shade. 

Our next stop was a street that was familiar to me from Bangkok. Basically filled with hawkers selling cut price designer goods, hotels and food places. I love the sights, scents and sounds that invade your senses in places like this. 

We took a little detour from here to check out some interesting bits of street art and finally arrived at the Eco forest. 

The Eco forest is basically a huge park in the middle of KL, full of jungle trees and animals. The best part is climbing up into the treetops and stepping across walkways to view the canopy. 

This was a really fun thing to do, so far in the day we had seen so much and spent less than a couple of £ each. Mainly on drinks to keep hydrated, the only downside is we didn’t see many creatures in the treetops until we got to the end, where a group of monkeys suddenly went flying through the trees. 

We were now at our planned destination, the KL TV tower, the highest point in Kuala Lumpur thanks to it’s location. Built on a hill it actually reaches further to the sky than the Petronas towers. Our plan was to head to the top for a drink and great views, little did we know there was a surprise up there for us. 

We paid to go right to the top and took the lift up to the outer balconies that run right the way round the tower. The views were absolutely amazing and it was a great feeling being this high up. 

There were even some angel’s wings to take a cool selfie with up here, and the best thing? Glass cubes sticking out over the edge that you could get pictures in, suspended 276m above the ground. Some people were too scared to do it, but I defied the growing vertigo inside me and stepped out onto the clear glass. 

We grabbed a pretty expensive drink and sat savouring the views over the City and planned our evening. We would head back to the hotel for a refreshing swim, before getting ready and taking advantage of free drinks and food in the orchid lounge. 

We managed to get a super cheap taxi back to the hotel and splashed around the pool for a bit. 

Utilising the free drinks we had a few glasses of red wine and gin and tonics before walking up to a well reviewed bar located on a helipad on the top of a building! Heli lounge is located in the Bukit bintang area of KL, once you go through the hotel you take the lift up to the bar, buy a drink here and take it up to the helipad. Now you can enjoy the 360 degree views with background dance music and pods to sit in. 

As we sipped our drinks we could hear thunder in the distance and dark clouds rolling in with shafts of lightning lashing through them. We made the wise choice to head back down to the bar now the sun had set. We sat here for a while enjoying a beer before heading to Pavilions to eat. 

Pavilion is another huge mall located in Bukit bintang, we wandered around the shops a little, I was enamoured with Japan St, where they sold so much stuff I loved in Japan I could’ve used all my spending money right there. We decided on a place called Ben’s which did some traditional Malaysian food along with Asian regulars like Thai. 

I had curry laksa and it was insanely good, I can only imagine how much better it must taste out on the streets. After dinner we did a little more browsing and wandering around Bukit bintang before heading back to the hotel ready for our next adventure….. Tomorrow we fly to  Singapore. 

Kuala Lumpur, the gateway to our Asian expedition. 

After an 18 hour or so journey, nearly missing our connecting flight in Dubai, we arrived in Kuala Lumpur. This was our gateway in and out of Southeast Asia and a great starting point to ease ourselves in. The capital of Malaysia it’s an old colonial City, the Chinese settled here first before the British used it to impose their imperialism on the area. 

Arriving at the airport it’s really easy to take the 30 minute train to the main station. We had glimpses of the Petronas Towers and skyscrapers in the distance while we passed through rainforest. 

Our first view of KL was from the monorail, there are several transport options to get you round the City but our hotel lay on this line. We passed Hindu and Chinese temples, Mosques and a church, showing the multiculturalism that KL is famous for. 

We checked in to the Park royal which I would definitely recommend. We upgraded to their orchid lounge giving us a more private breakfast area, and free nibbles and drinks in the afternoon and early evening. Plus a nicer room! We had a quick look at the pool and view of the KL tv tower too. 

Taking my trusted lonely planet guide to the City we planned our day. It was around midday at this point and we decided to head out of the City for the Batu caves, one of KL’s major sights. We took the monorail back to the station and got on one of the many trains out of the City to Batu. Beginning in 1890 the caves have been a major Hindu centre of worship. They are famous for the 140ft statue of the Hindu God of war, Lord Murugan. 

We had half an hour to wait for the train so wandered around the connecting mall, it was huge! Mall culture is massive in KL with various sized places dotted about the City. 

As the train set off it started raining, but luckily it had finished by the time we arrived. We started off at a smaller cave off to the left of the station, where a big statue of another Hindu deity Hanuman. 

The cave is full of statues picturing various Hindu legends and you can climb up through the limestone formations. The colourful scenes are really fun, but it would have been good to know some of the stories behind the depictions. 

Leaving the cave we walked round the cliffs and got our first look at the gold statue of Murugan. Batu caves are also famous for their contingent of monkeys that live around the place, entertaining and tormenting tourists in equal measures. After some dicey moments with monkeys in Cambodia I was a little hesitant to get too close. 

We climbed the 272 steps up into the main cave area, passing various sized Macaques on the way, it was pretty humid out here but with a couple of breaks the steps were okay, the scenery surrounding us distracting from the climb. 

Inside the caves it was a bit cooler, and the size was impressive, reaching up above us. We wandered through before finding ourselves in daylight once again. The cave had no roof and sunlight poured through the natural skylight. 

We headed back down the steps and past the dark cave which we unfortunately didn’t have time for as I had made plans for the evening. Making it back to the hotel we had a quick swim and got ready for an evening out. 

Our destination was the famous Petronas Towers, once the tallest building in the world and still the tallest twin towers. It’s a beacon of Southeast Asian development. We walked from the hotel and caught our first glimpse of the tower from a lovely park located at the feet of several skyscrapers. 

I had pre booked the tickets to go up the tower, so we checked in for our time slot, and after a brief introduction took the elevator to the corridor between the two buildings. 

The views from here were amazing and we weren’t even at the top yet! The skybridge takes up the 41st and 42nd floors and us 170m above ground. It’s designed to slide in and out of the main towers to avoid breaking and give the towers additional support.

We took the lift up to the top, the 86th floor and now the views of the City were incredible, even with the cloud coverage you could see for miles! It was such a cool way to spend our first day in Asia. 

After 15 minutes or so up there it was time to head back down. It’s definitely worth doing and I really enjoyed it. 

The sun was setting as we stepped out into KLCC park and we wandered around the little lake, finding a spot to sit and marvel as the City transformed around us as night fell. The view of the towers at night is amazing and after being the subject of a few locals pictures and live streams the light show on the lake began. 

I loved this moment, it really felt like we had arrived somewhere magical and foreign to Manchester and the UK. I could have stayed there for hours taking it all in, but hunger struck and we decided to go for dinner. 

I had read about a few street food places that sounded good, and one was back towards our hotel underneath one of the malls. It was fun walking through these bustling mini metropolis, with the air con you can see why they’re so popular with the locals. 

We ate underneath Lot 10 mall, in the food court full of old street hawkers who have been given this space. We got some Korean influenced food with a mix of dishes served to us. It was so good and I couldn’t wait to try more Asian food, after the long flight and day in the humid City we were ready to go back to the hotel. Although I had to get a bubble tea and some ice cream on the walk back. 

Belem and the birthplace of Nata. 

Our last day was upon us! Our flights weren’t till later on in the evening so we had at least half a day to sightsee. This took us to Belem, an area of Lisbon that is easily reachable by train or tram.

Another scorcher of a day, we took the train out to Belem and walked through a small park to get to the main street. Here you can find ‘Pasteis de Belem’ where the original Nata were made from an old recipe taken from the nearby monastery.

We decided to explore a bit before having a Nata, and emerged at the end of the street onto a huge square with the aforementioned monastery taking up one side.

The Jeronimos monastery is an impressive building, it’s also where Vasco de Gama stayed before sailing for the far East!

After taking a few pictures we walked down towards the Tagus river and spotted a huge monument pointing out towards the water. A quick Google told us it was a monument to the discoveries, a nod to Portugals past as a major player in the exploration of the earth.

You could actually go up to the top of the monument but we decided against it. Instead there was a cool love sign nearby which we had to get some pictures with, and once done we got some ice creams and continued our walk along the Tagus.

The views out over the water were amazing, our destination was Belem tower, sitting out in the river and only accessible by a small bridge it’s extremely photogenic.

It was lunchtime and using foursquare I had found the #1 sandwich shop in Belem. Which sounded perfect, it was actually back on the main st we had walked along earlier so we wandered through a couple of cool green parks on our way back.

The food from Pao Pao Queijo Queijo was so good, and the name is great! You queue up and order then decide what extras you want, it was a bit like a much tastier version of subway.

We sat in the shade of a huge tree in one of the nearby parks and water our food, planning the next hour before we had to head back and pick our luggage up. We decided to visit the nearby botanical gardens as they were free.

I’d say it’s definitely not a must see place, some parts were really nice but it as quite run down. The highlights were peacocks and their chicks stalking through the grass and foliage.

As time started catching up on us we walked back towards the station, picking up Nata for the journey back from Pasteis de Belem and took the short trip to Alfama.

Hannah had to get to the airport earlier than us so I waved her off on the train before we sat in our little local square and had a couple of drinks to enjoy the Lisbon sunshine for the last time. We even had a bit of live music to entertain us.

It was really easy to get the train up to the airport from Alfama, and we wandered around a bit trying to decide on food. Eventually we just went through to the gates and picked up a few bits in there.

We were soon flying home and saying our goodbyes to Lisbon, a city that impressed us no end, even with all the sights we managed to see there is so much more to do. It’s cheap and friendly with way transport around, and close to beautiful beaches. A definite must on the bucketlist.

Exploring Alfama, Lisbon in a day. 

After last night’s exploits there were some sore heads this morning so we didn’t really have much planned. The best thing about being abroad is that you don’t want to feel like you’ve missed out on anything….so using the lonely planet Lisbon guide I worked out a little walking tour we could do from the hotel. It was our last day so everyone was game as we left the apartment and emerged into beautiful sunshine. 

All the small cobbled streets are so beautiful as we made our way towards Sé, Lisbon cathedral. The girls stopped for a bit of souvenir shopping when I spotted a tiny place selling different types of sangria! It looked so good we just had to try it, I got white while the others tried different red flavours, it was so good! 

We walked up alongside the Cathedral and marvelled at the beautiful architecture. I spotted some cool street art too, we emerged onto a square where the impressive main entrance is situated. It’s such an amazing building and it was nice to properly see it rather than just from the tram. 

From here I cheated a little as we wandered down out of Alfama and towards Comercio square. A palace used to stand here but the 1755 earthquake completely destroyed it, allowing the square to be built as part of a remodelling of the city. The square has a good bit of history, being the site of an assassination on the penultimate king of Portugal. We entered through the Arco da Rua Augusta, a stunning triumphal arch built in 1873. 

The square opens out onto the river and in the sunshine it was gorgeous, with restaurants and bars encircling it. There is a statue of King Jose I in the centre of the square, notable because he developed severe claustrophobia the earthquake and never comfortably lived within 4 walls. In fact he moved his royal court into tents in the nearby hills. 

We also found the self proclaimed sexiest toilet in the world here, which the girls used and said was very nice with coloured toilet paper but maybe not the sexiest. 

It was very hot now as we walked back up the hill into Alfama district once again, stopping to grab ice cold drinks on the way. I checked Google maps and noticed another viewpoint so we headed towards the Miradouro de Santa luiza and after admiring some typical Lisbon tiles we took in the red rooftops and views out to the river that lay before us. 

The blues and reds were incredible as we walked around to second viewpoint, but not before taking some fun pictures. 

The next terrace was the Visigothic wall and the Portas do sol with more great views. We were getting hungry now and hasn’t had any Nata today! So we walked towards our end game, the Castelo de S.Jorge. 

As we walked up we spotted a cute restaurant called Miss Can which was incredible. Sardines, olives, breads and salads it was delicious and cheap too! Plus a beer refreshment to wash it down and Hannah tried lisbon’s famous green wine. 

With our hunger sorted it was time for more Nata from the same place we had got them from on our first day at the entrance to Castelo St Jorge. Once we’d had our Nata fill we queued up for the Castelo and wandered in to beautiful gardens within the castle. Perched up at the top of the hill Alfama is located around, the castle dates from the 10th century and has a heavy Moorish influence. 

The views from here were great over the City and there was a wine cart called wine with a view! So Lee and I got a Portuguese red and sat looking out from the walls of the castle. 

The Castelo itself is pretty big and the walls are fun to climb up and stand on the ramparts looking at a 360° Lisbon. Plus some fun towers to climb up to. It was getting towards evening and we had plans for a bbq fish dinner so we wandered back down towards the apartment to get ready. 


Our dinner destination was a place called Patio 13 which we had discovered accidentally by walking past and noticing a big queue and the amazing smell of bbq. It’s located in Alfama and it was only a 5 minute walk from our place. Arriving we queued up with a beer before being given a table on the patio. The restaurant is basically a load of tables and a huge now all outside. 

We ordered sangria and a selection of different bbq fish including swordfish and sardines. All the plates arrived with sides and we had bread and butter at the start. The food was out of this world and we all devoured it. We also got dessert and finally tried Ginja, a Portuguese cherry liqueur which was tasty too. 

It was really good value too, I think we paid less than £15 each easily for it. Once done we had a nightcap at a bar nearby and went back to the apartment…sad to think it was our last day tomorrow. 

NOS Alive and a day at the beach. 

So today was the start of the festival! We were pretty excited to see what NOS had to offer us as we belatedly got up and had breakfast. Shout out to Sarah and Lee who always had coffee and something cooking for us all in the mornings. The views from our apartment this morning were ace. 

NOS is located a few train stops out of the City so we walked over to Santa Apolonia, the station that served us so well over the course of the week. From here we went straight to Cais De Sodre where we jumped a train to Alges. Our plan was to pick up our wristbands before heading to a nearby beach for a couple of hours. 

Because of the heat in the day the first acts don’t start until around 5-6pm and go on till 2-3am which is a pretty good idea! Anyway we arrived at the festival gates only to find a huge crowd in front of us waiting to get in. After waiting in the hot sun for what seemed like forever, a band started playing Pearl Jam’s ‘Alive’ and we walked through security. Unfortunately Sarah and Lee had the caps from their liquids taken off them, so they had to sort a makeshift one out of plastic and husbands. 

Finally though we were in! We walked under the welcome arch where the band was playing and surveyed the terrain. It’s not a big festival with only 2 stages, a dance tent and a bandstand. It was around 3pm now so the beach idea was scrapped in favour of a beer idea. The sun was shining and we sat on the astroturf that was laid out over the concrete with a beer and looked through the bands that were playing today. 

There were a load of freebies being handed out including hats, wristbands and sun cream! Getting hungry we walked over to the food area…basically the length between dance and 2nd stages has tables and chairs and loads of different types of food. I lumped for a burrito which wasn’t satisfying at all so I got a kebab too! Excited for our first European festival we had a few more beers and learnt a few lessons over the 3 days. 

  1. NOS is easy to get to, but hard to get from, they close off the train station from one side so you have to walk for about 40 minutes along an overpass, squeeze onto a train, then try and get a taxi or walk to your hotel once in the City. 
  2. They have people walking around with beerpacks, so you don’t need to go to the bar, the bar comes to you. 
  3. Portuguese people don’t really dance, or singalong much, so it can feel a bit awkward at times. 
  4. It’s not super packed with people so you can always get to a good spot, especially important for the smaller people along us! 
  5. It’s great to party in the sun but it actually did get colder at night than we expected!
  6. You can get free T-shirts in exchange for plastic cups. (My sister Hannah got especially into this, I think managing to get about 5 or 6). 
  7. It’s a great festival overall, the line-up has to have enough on it to make it worth it though, we had to make big decisions on who to see as all the acts we wanted to see were on later at the same time.

One of the best bits of the 3 days was being able to visit the beach, only a ten minute or so journey past the NOS stop is Carcavelos where you can get off and walk another 10 minutes to find yourself at a beautiful beach. We arrived here the 2nd day of the festival, got food and sangria at one of the restaurants and spent a few hours playing on the beach and in the very cold Atlantic! The water was really clear though and we could see fish swimming around us.

We relaxed on the beach for a bit longer with some beers and ice creams, we then headed back via another beachside restaurant which was so good! Hannah got these huge prawns that tasted amazing. We got the train back to the festival and spent another great night there. Rocking out to the Foo Fighters. The walk back wasn’t as bad either because we were more prepared for it. 

We fully intended to go to the beach again on the third and final day, however I think everyone needed a rest after the past few days of drinking. So instead we chilled out and then went straight over to the site, meeting some crazy Portuguese Depeche Mode fans who were adamant they should play ‘Personal Jesus’. NOS and doing a festival abroad was so much fun and we’re already talking about where we could try next year, after all it’s a Glastonbury fallow year so that’s out of the equation.

Day trippin’ to Sintra from Lisbon. 

So today we were all excited to be heading to Sintra, we navigated the underground system, getting travel cards much like the oyster in London. To get to Sintra you take a train from Rossio station in the centre of Lisbon. Trains leave every half hour and queues can be pretty big! We explored a nearby square while we waited for our train. 

Tickets are around 4.50E and the journey takes 40 minutes. We bought some food from a nearby supermarket for a picnic later. 

Once you arrive in Sintra take a left from the station and you can make your way towards the first of many sights. We weren’t too bothered about the first building we came to, the Sintra National Palace which has two conical chimneys atop it. 

We continued on to the Quinta da Regaleira, this palace, like many in this area was built by a rich playboy type, the interest here is really the grounds. Filled with underground passageways, impressive wells and various towers and vantage points it’s an exciting and beautiful place to walk around. 

We stopped off for a coffee by the main  house,  then spent a long time covering every blade of grass to ensure we didn’t miss anything, the main well is so impressive and we had fun going through the spooky underground passages. Look out for the stepping stones across an algae filled pond with a lovely bridge looking over it. 

We stopped soon after this to have a well earned rest after taking in incredible views from the top of a tower, and scoffed down our picnic of sardines, bread, olives, salami and cheese.

It was mid-afternoon by this point so we left to hit the next two spots that we thought looked good, the Moorish castle and the Palace de la Pena, we took a bus up to both which made it’s way round tight bends as we ascended to the top of the hills.

Once dropped off we realised the castle and palace would probably be too much for us to manage in our time frame, so we lumped for a walk round the Palace gardens as it was a cheaper option than going inside the Palace itself. 

There was still some way to climb from the entrance to the actual palace through nice gardens. The palace is amazing, architecturally crazy and done in various bright colours it’s like something out of a cartoon. It also turned out that you could walk pretty much all the way around the walls etc with just the gardens pass. 

This was a great bonus as we clambered up mini turrets and around the palace. It’s so colourful and pretty we really enjoyed it and there were some spectacular views out over the surrounding countryside. 

We had a map of a few points of interest in the huge gardens so we tried to see a few as we walked back down the hill, we saw a huge statue of a guard high up on a rock, views of the palace from across a small valley and big duck ponds with spooky towers in the middle of them that turned out to be duck houses! 

This place is just unreal and we wished we had spent more time there as the moorish castle is meant to be great too. 

 It was getting late now so we left the palace gardens at the pond entrance and caught a bus back to the station. Got an ice cream while we waited for the train and got back to the apartment. Tonight we had planned for dinner but it didn’t quite go according to plan. We had spotted a little bbq fish restaurant high up in Alfama but when we arrived it was boarded up for the night! 

Not to be downhearted I quickly used foursquare and after trying a really nice sounding place that was too busy we stopped at a kebab house, but only for a super cheap beer! Around 1.20 Euro each! It was quite nice chilling out on a square but we were getting really hungry now, so we went over to the #1 rated pizza place in Lisbon! Called restaurante Casanova,  we queued up with a beer and finally sat down for food. It was totally worth it.

The pizza was huge and the thin crispy base was covered in tasty toppings, we got a few sides such as arancini which was just as good. It was a really great atmosphere here too, located right on the river. We went back to the apartment and sat around chatting for a bit before heading to bed. It was festival time tomorrow!