36 hours in Berlin.

So an impromptu visit to Berlin was on the cards, I’ve visited before and loved it as a City. This time we were going over for a concert and a quick sightseeing adventure.

Arriving late we headed straight for our Air BnB before hitting a couple of pubs, wandered across check point charlie and grabbed some beers from one of the ‘spatis’, the famous late night shops you can buy booze and snacks from.

The next day we were up pretty early and headed in the direction of the closest piece of the Berlin wall, one of the most famous monuments in history. Walking along the wall gave a real perspective of this barrier separating a nation. We stopped for a quick breakfast where I had a matcha latte to die for.

Continuing our walk we found another piece of wall before wandering through Berlin, checking out some souvenirs and then sombrely navigating our way through the Holocaust memorial site.

The maze like structure takes up a good amount of space and it’s an interesting and haunting place as you walk between the various shapes blocks.

From here we found ourselves at the Brandenburg Gate, the famous Berlin landmark built over 200 years ago.

Moving on we spotted the memorial to Gypsies murdered in the Holocaust, a peaceful circular pool almost hidden away in the city park. It was a short walk from here to the Reichstag building, it was mostly burnt down in 1933 under suspicious circumstances which the Nazis used to their advantage against the communists.

We hung out here for a bit before checking the map and heading over to the Soviet war memorial in Tiergarten. It’s a pretty impressive monument and one of 3 you can find in Berlin. We stopped for lunch and had some yummy Asian food to fill us up, then wandered back through the City towards a bunker museum about Hitler and WWII.

This was actually super interesting, detailing Hitler’s life and how he changed into this maniacal dictator, and how the country and the political climate allowed him to gain such a control over Germany. We spent so long here we had to rush to get ready and go out to see The National.

The rest of the night was spent chaotically trying to find karaoke and then a bar to drink in! It was fun to spend a little break in Berlin and catch up on some sights.

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! 

Andorra, the highest capital city in Europe! 

Another early wake up this morning… there are no lie ins on this whirlwind tour! I had found information a little vague on transport to Andorra from Toulouse, so I went to the bus station located near the main train station early to get a 10am bus. I didn’t want to miss it so ended up being an hour early. 

In the end it was pretty easy to find, you just pay for the bus when you’re getting on and it was well signed posted. I caught up on a bit of sleep for the first part of the journey but wanted to take in the views when we started to climb up into the Pyrenees, the mountain range that separates France from Spain. They speak Catalan in Andorra and I knew a bit more than French so was looking forward to trying it out. 

Andorra itself is a small, independent principality which has, unusually, two heads of state, the Bishop of Urgell in Spain, and the French president. It is probably best known for it’s ski resorts, of which we drove through a few on the way to the capital, Andorra La Vella. 

The journey took around 3 hours and was pretty pleasant with the views, I finally arrived in the City centre and headed straight for my cheap ass hostel. On the way it was hard not to notice the giant portrait on the mountainside above the City. 

The actual City is a mish-mash of ugly tower blocks and pretty houses dotted around the mountains. The fact that it is completely surrounded by these mountains make the views amazing. 

There’s a fast flowing river running right through the centre and I followed this up towards my hotel, passing the impressively futuristic spa Caldea. 

The hotel itself was pretty dire, but for the price it was clean and the hosts very friendly, which is all you need really. 

As usual I ditched my stuff and went off to explore, following the river back down I passed a great Andorra La Vella sign and somw interesting statues. The air was so fresh and it’s such a clean place, I was starting to love it already. It was great to think I was staying in the highest capital City in Europe too. 

Since I had only had a snack for breakfast I was now starving, so being naughty I ended up in a McDonald’s after walking along the busy and modern shopping streets, Andorra is a tax haven and so duty free is meant to be good value here. 

My tour of Andorra continued towards the old part of town to see the Casa de la Vall, Andorra’s historical parliament building since 1702 and of course, Sant Esteve, another church. 

I walked up into the old town which is actually a lot prettier than the grey 70s looking buildings that the capital seems to love. 

The parlient building itself was okay but the terrace in front of it afforded me amazing views of the mountains I would be conquering the next day. 

I later found out that there’s a few more lookout type spots you can walk or drive to. One in particular with some interesting statues at the viewpoint. 

I found some hiking trails including one that spans the whole country! In all honesty there aren’t a lot of “sights” in Andorra La Vella, it’s more about getting out into the countryside. I decided after 5 days of walking I would treat myself to an evening in Caldea Spa. 

For 30E I got access to all the pools and saunas and at first I thought it was maybe a little pricey but the amount of facilities they have is incredible. It’s also nice sitting in a warm jacuzzi looking up at the mountains surrounding you. I imagine in Winter it would be even better. 

I enjoyed the Turkish baths the most, hot and steamy but with ice cold water available when it got too much. I would definitely recommend a visit especially if you’ve spent the day hiking or skiiing. There was even a musical water show towards the end of my visit. 

I spent an hour or so just wandering the streets, all lit up and people out and about playing games and doing salsa etc. It was really nice and it came across like a very peaceful place to live. 

Onwards to the next day and a full days hike! 

Going underground in Belgrade.  

Today we decided to do all the bits that we couldn’t do as part of the walking tour. We wanted to have Burek for breakfast and wandered for ages trying to find a bakery! We had seen loads the previous days but now we were actively seeking one out they were hiding! Finally we found one and got huge buttery, cheesy Bureks washed down with a coffee.  They were worth the wait!

We found ourselves near the Hotel Moscow and it was around midday so we went in for the recommended cake. We both got walnut inspired traditional cream cakes and they were amazing. The design inside the hotel was beautiful and we felt quite posh sat there. The orange juice was also yummy. 

Once we had finished off the cake we went over to Kalemegdan park again. Walking through the fortress we found out that before the Romans had settled there they had to conquer the Celts that had built the first fortress; Singidunum. 

We noticed you could climb one of the towers so up we went and we were greeted with great views out over the City and surrounding areas. 

I don’t know whether it was because it was Easter or it’s usual but there was loads going on in the park and fortress. Sarah had a go at archery and we found a random dinosaur park! You can also find Belgrade military museum in one of the outer walls. It was nice to get a bit more time to wander around this area as it was beautiful.  

From the vantage points around the park we could see the bridge that people partied on during the NATO bombing. It started off as people holding up giant target signs and standing on the bridge to ensure it wouldn’t be bombed and soon turned into party central every night. It’s a real testament to human spirit and we loved hearing that story.  

We had decided to do another tour today, this time a paid one visiting some underground elements of Belgrade.  We soon found ourselves back at the republic square, we met up with the guide and it turned out there was only one other person on the tour. 

We found ourselves being questioned quite a lot on our existing Belgrade knowledge as we walked back up towards Kalemegdan park. After being told about the monument honouring France’s assistance in WW1 we arrived at our first underground stop…the Roman well that is neither Roman, nor a well! 

The ‘well’ was actually thought to be built by the Austrians in 1700/1800s and it’s notoriety comes from it’s use as a dungeon. Although it’s more likely that prisoners were thrown down the shaft and left to die. We could wander around the upper level but the staircase leading down the outside of the well is closed. 

It’s pretty cool being underground but it would be better if the whole thing was open. We heard a rumour while we were there that they’re thinking of opening up a lot more of the underground sites in Belgrade. 

The second location on the tour was Tito’s bunker. Tito was the 1st president of communist Yugoslavia after WW2. He was the leader of the partisans, a rebel group against the Nazis.  Once in his role as leader he made an enemy in Stalin and built these bunkers across the Balkans in fear of a strike against him from the East but also possibly the West.  

The bunker was mainly designed for a few men with Tito getting his own personal room. It wasn’t a huge place but it was interesting to learn about the history a bit more. 

We walked around the whole place, guessing what certain rooms were and seeing where they would have had anti-aircraft machinery kept. 

The next spot on our list was an old gunpowder store. Located at the bottom of the hill that Belgrade fortress sits upon, it’s a huge open cave that was turned into a nightclub in the 90s during the war. With gum all over the floor and graffiti on old Roman ruins, there was even an old stone tomb that was used to keep drinks in and an old stone table where the DJ played. 

This place was used as a museum before the nightclub and now still holds music concerts, just maybe not quite as wild as before. Sarah couldn’t believe the historical pieces were left there when the club was around! 

The final stop was a bar in an old cave under the hill, on the way was a famous piece of street art. 

It represents peace, war growth and struggle in Serbia which after spending a few days here and learning some more of tge history we could understand. In the chilly cave we tried some Serbian white wine which was lovely, and played a traditional Easter game. Our guides had brought some hard boiled eggs and we had to try and crack each others eggs, whoever won got the eggs. Our guide won overall and was really happy about it, but it was nice to sit in a cave chatting to Serbians about a range of things.  

That was the end of the tour! It was really interesting and we had a lot of fun doing something a bit different. After all the walking we were starving, one of the guides had recommended pljeskavica…basically a burger but huge and with your choice of toppings. Think like five guys but far tastier and better value. 

It was amazing, exactly what we needed. We got it from a small place near republic square where we could sit down outside. We ordered ours with a big lump of cheese and all the trimmings! 

We absolutely devoured it before heading to Casablanca, a film themed pub on Skadarlija. I watched the football and we played some heads up, the barman also looked like Serbia’s most famous export…tennis player Novak Djokovic. Loving food like we do, we got pizza later on and went back to the hostel with a few beers to keep us going. Tomorrow we were off to Novi Sad for our last proper day of travelling! 

So long, Sarajevo…Ciao Belgrade! 

Today we were up at 4:30am for a bus at 6 to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. We checked that the trams were running and after a nervous 20 minute wait we were on! We arrived at the bus station and the bus was actually early! 

We hopped on and almost immediately fell asleep. Waking up intermittently the landscape changed completely into flat farmland. We had arrived on the pannonian plains from the Balkan mountains. 

The bus takes 7/8 hours, the border crossing wasn’t so bad and I slept for the majority of the journey waking to eat the sandwiches we had bought the day before. We arrived at the bus station near the Sava river and worked out the general direction to our hostel. 

We were staying at the white owl in Skadarlija, the bohemian quarter of Belgrade. Managing to find the main republic square it was only a 5 minute walk from there. The square is the main meeting point in the City. The hostel was really nice, we dropped our stuff off and immediately left to explore. The sun was gorgeous again as we wandered down the main street past cool looking bars and restaurants. 

One bar grabbed our attention, all wooden outside decking and plants. So we stopped to enjoy the sun with a couple of beers. 

We wandered around the bohemian quarter a little more, picked up some drinks and snacks for the room and went for dinner. We went back to the bar we had sat outside and ordered some tasty cocktails to enjoy the last of the sun. Food was calling to us now so went to Three Tats on Skardalija, unfortunately I had left my phone to charge so there aren’t any pictures of the gigantic meat platter we got. 

A guy next to us started chatting in Serbian and French but we managed to have a bit of conversation with him and he bought us a round of beers! The waiter was really friendly too. Nice to find out that Serbians were just as friendly as the rest of the Balkans.  We had amazing warm bread and a nice cheese filled salad to go with all the steak, cevapi, burgers, sausages and chicken. 

It really was epic, we didn’t even mind when a kid grabbed one of our cevapi off the plate as her family were getting ready to leave! 

After stuffing our faces we were going to have a big night out, but after being up so early we couldn’t hack it, so we just had a few drinks in the cool bars nearby. Maybe we shouldn’t have eaten quite so much! We checked the map for interesting sites and bars ready for the next few days, and found a few walking tours to keep us busy!