I turned 31 and I’d been travelling 31 days with Winnie on this Eurotrip with almost 31°C weather.
We rented a Mercedes Benz and drove the Northern coast of the island. The driving was smooth like butter but not the best vehicle to take on those windy and narrow roads.
Along this route winding up the mountains, we stopped at many spots: Banyalbufar, Valldemossa, Deia, Soller, Port of Soller, top of the crazy windy roads of Sa Calobra (looks crazy but apparently worth it to go down for what’s down there) and made it to Cap de Formentor for sunset with a few lookout points along the way. It is crazy because the roads are super narrow along the mountain with many curve but you also are dealing with mountain bikers, motorcycles and other cars speeding around corners. There are many lookout points along the way on the mountain BUT please make sure your car can clear the difference in height between the road and the side of the road to deter from scratching your rental car.
Palma, Mallorca, Spain
We left Sa Pobla and hit the road in search of beaches. We drove to the North East side of the island and drove south where we ended in Palma.
Cala Mesquida and Es Trenc. Mesquida was a smaller beach with resorts right beside it but also had many hiking trails nearby. Parking is tight and since it is near a resort, parking can be time consuming. We decided to check out Es Trenc, is a long and narrow road that winds along before you can get to the parking lot (7€). The road to get in is super narrow and can barely fit 2 cars passing one another at certain points. There are area to pull over into to let the oncoming car to go through. You walk from the parking lot a bit and it opens up to see the 3.5KM beach. When we got there, the sun was still out but within 15 minutes clouds rolled in. We hoped the clouds would break but unfortunately it didn’t.
We moved on and made our way towards our Airbnb in Palma. We walked the boardwalk of Playa de Palma. The clouds opened up for a little bit but no clear sunsets.
We realized later that the weather had called for a downpour but all we got was a little drizzle twice for maybe 15 minutes each time. Good for us I guess.
We lived the glamorous life and went to IKEA for dinner – Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes so in a way, we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving in a Ikea in Spain. There are so many options of food and snacks! I was even able to grab a bag of the Bilar car candies.
Palma, Mallorca, Spain
Final day in Mallorca and we decided to start the day at Anima Beach to get our last bit of rays on a beach. Just make sure you note where you park. If you park within blue, that is 1 hour parking if zigzag it’s bus and no parking. You need the white lines or clear and you’re in the clear as we learned the hard way.
We checked out of the Airbnb and parked our car for the day and explore the main section of Palma. We started with the area around Plaça de l’Olivar and ventured down to the marina and back into the main area.
Had lunch at restaurante La Mémé. We both got the 3-course meal for only 14,50€. I got the salmon wrap and salad to start, the goulash with potatoes and ended with carrot cake and the meal also includes a drink.
As we walked around the city, we stumbled across two more of Gaudi’s buildings as well. We had planned to reach the airport later in the evening and so to kill some time, Winnie got a pedicure.
For our final meal in Spain, we went to Celler Sa Premsa – where we ate in an old wine cellar. We ordered the sobrasada (raw, cured sausage from the Balearic Islands made with ground pork, paprika and salt and other spices – this region is known for the sobrasada). I got the grilled squid and Winnie got the Tumbet and of course a nice sangria to end the trip with.
We dropped off the car rental and had the classy stay overnight in an airport. What we did learn from our travels is that if we need to sleep overnight in an airport and haven’t check in yet, you can either find a location that is close to an outlet to charge your phone or whatnot but if you want to be comfortable, try to find the “café” and they usually have cushioned seats that you can put together and form a makeshift bed (well at least when the café is not open for business).
Mallorca, Spain – London, UK – Toronto, Canada
Got into London via Gatwick and went to the New Cross area to grab Winnie’s bigger luggage from her friend Liona’s. Continued on and dropped off her stuff at her friend Tim’s place in South Kensington area. These are two very different areas of the city for sure. It was suppose to rain but the rain held off giving us a 15°C day and lovely lighting.
We had our final meal together at Squirrel – Thai me up bowl and a ginger cayenne shot for me. The interior is cute with a tree house themed design.
After lunch, we walked over to Charles Bridge and area before we bid farewell at Kensington station and I made my way to Heathrow to head home to Toronto.
And that was that. 11 flights, 2 trains, 4 car rentals, 6 countries and 16 cities (London, Madrid, Sevilla, Porto, Sintra, Cascais, Lisbon, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Munich, Berlin, Edinburgh, Isle of Skye, Glasgow, Barcelona and Mallorca) in 36 days.
Many have already asked me what was my favourite place or best memory was and to answer truthfully, we did so much that it is hard to truly pinpoint. Each city we went to had its highlights for sure. I would truly have to go through my Instagram posts or even these travel posts to remember all of it.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people along the way including some of my wonderful Yuujou friends (in person) and many of Winnie’s friends.
Thanks to my travel buddy Winnie for joining me on this month long adventure. Also for correcting my spelling errors, being the GPS and my model. We made it through without killing each other so that’s a good sign.
Started the morning with the Stockholm Free walking tour of Galma Stan with Priyanka as my guide. She is originally from India but moved to Stockholm 2 years ago to study Environmental Development & Urban studies and is now studying Swedish and Architecture. It was 13°C and sunny out.
Facts about Sweden & more specifically Stockholm from the tour:
-Sigtuna – 1st settlement. Estonians were the first to attack. Galma Stan – created a fort city to stop the plundering.
-Stock means log; Holm means home – They installed logs into the water so the boats would hit it and go down from invasion.
-Stockholm is the most populated Scandinavian city.
-It is the Venice of the north with 14 islands comprising the main city.
-The knights took their own island beside the main island
-Vasterlanggatan – longest street – Separated the 2 body of water to transporting goods
-Swedish is a straightforward language – especially if you are English speaking – vegetables – green things
-Little mirrors are all over the window facades to pull in natural light into people’s homes and also able to see what was happening in your neighbour’s house – gossip mirrors
-Golden Phoenix emblem over the door. Sweden had the oldest insurance and bank – the houses with this emblem would be the first to be saved in case of a fire.
-Sweden is all about gender equality
-Almost 50% of priests are female
-Sweden is all for Same sex marriage
-The church space is open for many uses besides a place of worship such as Concert venues and orchestra performances.
-Everyone brings in their own faith
-Majority of people are Agnostic or Atheist but still pay to the church for all the stuff above
-You can opt out of paying church tax
-There is German part of Town in Galma because they did so much trading of wood and iron
-The narrowest street (Mårten Trotzigs Gränd} was created by a merchant who wanted his own alley. The Government said this merchant can make it but it has to be discreet and now it’s one of the most famous Photo spots in the city.
-Iron ties on buildings – iron pieces outside of a house to hold the wooden beams
-Swedes pay high taxes but get good benefits such as mat leave, 160 days paid leave for taking care of sick children, free education, free healthcare
-Social benefits – If you work full-time, you get 25-35 days paid vacation and holiday pay is higher than normal pay. They know holidays are more expensive so they raise the rate during that travel period.
-Swedes goto Berlin for the weekend to party because it’s so much cheaper to fly there and purchase alcohol than to party in Sweden.
-Starting 3000 euro month with 22% tax
-They try to keep the low income and high-income brackets closer together. The higher tax bracket end up paying more tax, which can be up to 75% higher.
-Sweden, Denmark & Finland had a trade union but the Danish King was in power so the Swedes kept fighting and so, the St George and the dragon defeating the dragon tells the story of their relationship. The royal Swedish knight is from Denmark and the dragon is Finland and the man that is squished beneath is Norway
-For the most part, Swedes have a friendly rivalry with Danish.
The Ikea owner was dyslexic so he couldn’t remember numbers. He named products after regions and for named products such as carpets and doormats after Danish regions – stepping on Denmark passive aggressively.
-The red blood square – red house left with 93 white rocks to represent the lost lives that day by the Nobel prize museum
-Swedes do a lot of eco friendly progressive things such as many second hand spots and even have a mall specifically for that.
-Cash is NOT key here. In fact, there are very limited places to use it as card and tap are implemented everywhere including public toilets. I asked Isabelle to get me some Swedish krone so I could tip but I had a hard time getting rid of the rest of the krone I had.
Ok, back to my day. After the tour, I was on my way to head underground to explore some of the wonderful metro stations until a group of girls passed by with Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for the climate) signs to only realize it was Friday and every Friday especially in Stockholm where Greta Thunberg is from, they have Fridays for future protests (also other places around the world have these gatherings now). I made my way to Mynttorget and was surrounded. Youth came in from all nearby streets chanting and holding handmade signs. There were an array of characters from small children to highschoolers to adults. The actual protest was well-organized and oh so many people.
As the protest march had commenced, I continued on underground and visited a bunch of metro stations that are all differently themed and use the space well. The metro stations in Stockholm are works of art. Roughly 90 out of 100 stations are decorated or painted by different artists going back to 1950. The Stockholm Metro stations have been referred to as the “Longest Art Gallery in the World”. There are definitely many blogs you can read that can help you plan your own adventure underground. There are also tours. This is when getting a day pass for the metro truly comes in handy. There are a few of the blog posts I used to help me identify a few stations I wanted to visit in my limited time.
I had planned my route underground with some fun stops along the way. Coming out of one of the stations, I went to the Stockholm Public Library that features a round room – definitely need to be super quiet in there. And while in Sweden, you have to fika (making time in your day to either catch up with friends or just taking time in your day to have a coffee/tea with a pastry such as a cinnamon bun). I had fika at Cafe Pascual with a nice tea and cardamom bun thanks to my friend Katherine’s recommendation. Isabelle had told me the use of cash to pay for things here is seldom as you can tap for everything including public toilets. Café Pascual follows that formula as no cash transaction is allowed and must be tap.
Around 3-330PM, the stations had gotten busy with people coming off of work, so I made my way over to Fotografiska. It was such a treat especially since the lead exhibit was from a photographer named Jimmy Nelson. He has dedicated the past few decades photographing the last tribes of the world before they to become extinct. There was a certain point in time that I had also applied to become a photographer to join his community and also contribute to this wonderful photographic endeavor but unfortunately I came close but not enough to join his team. Fotografiska has multiple floors with multiple artists on display at all times.
This day in particular was chilly at times and wet at times. I met up with Isabelle after work and we grabbed dinner at Kvarnen. I ordered the Isterband (sausage with potato and beets). It is one of those classic Swedish comfort dishes. Since the night was young, we went a bit of bar hopping from Lilla Hotellbaren to Omnipollos hatt (which also serves amazing stone oven pizza) to Södra Teatern (4 floors in the hotel with different music – when we were leaving, the first floor had a live band including a saxophone). Considering the thickest layers I had was a long sleeve, a hoodie and a rainjacket, the night was a little chilly but still good vibes.
Started our morning in Polhemsgatan neighbourhood having brunch at Newt. Banana pancakes, cinnamon roll, eggs and avocado on toast, turkey sandwich & juices. We checked out City Hall (you can’t miss it – look in the sky for the 3 gold crowns) and hopefully climb up (SEK60) the tower for a view of the city. We were going to climb up but the next scheduled time was 45 minutes from the time we were there and we didn’t want to wait. We decided to walk over to Monteliusvägen and see the opposite view. It is such a cute and quiet spot to hang out.
We walked through Soldermalm which was booming with people as the weather hit 21°C today as oppose to the rain and cold the day prior.
They had this farmers market where people were also doing a garage sale/secondhand thrifting. It’s crazy that there still is no physical money exchanged and they use e-transfers via Swish to purchase fresh produce to a child selling their old toys.
Isabelle’s boyfriend Love joined us and our first stop was for ice cream at A.H. Glassbar – I got the mango passion fruit and it was delicious! We ended up eating and sitting in the sun at the park on the corner in Nytorget where loads of people were also soaking up the sun. This was one of the rare places that still accept cash but you can also pay via Swish (Kindof like Venmo or EMT).
We continued to walk through Soldermalm and made our way over to the ferry terminal to go across to Djurgården. They have their own amusement part called Gröna Lund Tivoli but it was closed for a private event. We went to Skansen (an open air museum, zoo and event venue). We thought the autumn fair was happening that weekend but unfortunately it was the following week. We did see a lot of animals and the old ways of living in Sweden. It kindof reminded me of Centre Island & Black Creek Pioneer Village back in Toronto.
We made it to Kungsträdgården (true city centre) where we took in the last good bit of sun and heat by the water fountain. I also grabbed a Daim (Swedish chocolate bar made from crunchy almond caramel covered in milk chocolate) ice cream.
Love left us and we went on our way to Jakobsberg, the neighbourhood where Isabelle grew up.
We went over to her childhood friend Malin’s place. We were also joined by her sister Anna for taco night. The sisters are super sweet who have the most memorable adventures travelling with one another. Malin also made this chocolate cake which was supposed to be a mud cake but nonetheless delicious all around. We spent a good amount of time on the couch just chatting away. A good way to end the night and my final full day in Stockholm.
Stockholm, Sweden – Copenhagen, Denmark
After a light breakfast, Isabelle brought me to the bus stop where I was catching my bus to the airport and we said our goodbyes. Sad to leave Stockholm but the 2 full days there felt much longer.
Back on a plane I went and this time to Copenhagen. Met back up with Winnie after her short stint in Barcelona and London.
We purchased our Copenhagen cards and off we went. 2 stops from the airport, we stopped at Kastrup Søbad – a public sea bath. The weather was a warm 18°C and sunny when we arrived. We hopped back onto the metro system and made our way to our Airbnb out in Skovlunde. Skovlunde is about 20-30 minutes outside of the city centre but our location was a 5 minute walk from the train station.
We settled in then ran to catch the train into the city. We decided to head over to Freetown Christiania and took a look around. We spotted the spiral tower of Church of our Saviour however we arrived just after 7PM so we were unable to go up.
Christiania is a small part of town that has a grey area in terms of laws. intentional community and commune of about 850 to 1,000 residents. Copenhagen has had issues in the past with the drugs that were being distributed however in Christiania, they are able to sell kush and marijuana to an extent. At least this way, the drugs are being regulated a bit better. You are not allowed to take photos in certain parts of this town and you will definitely be called out or yelled at if you do so in the non-designated area.
We were famished and quickly past through the skatepark of the main area of Christiania. We found one of Thomas Dambo’s recycled wooden sculptures called Green George.
We then found ourselves on the main street where no photos are allowed. There you can find a street filled with merchants selling their fine selections of kush and cannabis freely. They have it all displayed nicely for you to walk up to.
We continued through to find a really cool vegetarian restaurant called Morgenstedet. We shared the baked dish with 3 salads for 110DKK ($21.65CAD).
Winnie had mentioned this restaurant that is suppose to be one of the best in the world called Noma. We walked to it but of course it was dark and closed by the time we made it there. We walked along the waters and it was super calm and quiet but the homes surrounding were definitely stunning. Big windows and you can definitely see into the homes which held beautifully designed and furbished interiors. (sign me up for a home here geeez). We continued walking over to Kobenhavn K through a system of bridges and saw the famous Nyhavn buildings at night and surrounding area. I thought Copenhagen would be similar to Stockholm but they both have such different vibes.
Originally, we had Tivoli – the oldest Amusement part in the world on our itinerary however, we didn’t realize that Tivoli’s summer season official closed that night. We just missed out. They close after the summer season and reopen for Halloween.
6AM wake up call to drive through the fog from Porto to Sintra. The drive from Porto was roughly 3.5-4 hour drive to Quinta da Regaleira. Honestly, I was following the speeds of the other drivers and at certain points I was driving a consistent 160KM/HR on the highway.
Originally planned to visit both Quinta da Regaleira (€8) and Palácio da Pena (there are 2 ticket options – Park & Palace €14 OR just Park ticket €7.50). For those heading to Quinta da Regaleira – Parking – there really isn’t much parking nearby Quinta and if the spots that are close are not empty, it’s only a one way road that takes about 30 minutes to circle back around. We found out the hard way and on the second time around, we found a spot where people had made their own spots on the side of the road about a 15 minute walk past Quinta da Regaleira.
We ended up just going to Quinta da Regaleira. We walked around the site to the infamous Initiation Well and cave system as the main attraction. Continued to the Fountain of Youth and the palace. We decided to nix Palácio da Pena and head to the beach side. We figured out that both myself and Winnie aren’t as big into Castles and Museums as many other travellers tend to be. Also, the weather was lovely and back home in Toronto the weather was starting to get cooler and we wanted to soak in the sun as much as we could.
We drove to Azenhas do Mar to take in the views and that’s where we overheard a guide mention of this beach town Cascais and decided to drive over. We situated ourselves at Praia dos Pescadores but not before getting ourselves some acai bowls. Took a few hours to catch some rays on the sand before heading to our Airbnb in Caxias.
Our Airbnb location was about a 15-minute drive over to Lisbon where we met up with my friend Kat who I originally met through Yuujou and had the opportunity to meet in person in NYC back in July. Timing wise, she literally just moved there the day before but happily met up for dinner with us to show us one of her favourite places.
We had an amazing dinner at Noobai, which is a 3-tiered restaurant that overlooks the city and is a great place for sunsets. The food was amazing as well! I got the codfish loin, Kat got the prawn curry and Winnie got the mango salad. We shared a lovely pitcher of sangria as well.
After dinner, Kat walked us through her old neighbourhood before leaving us for a conference call. We ventured off to continue our quest for tasting pastel de natas. We stopped at 3 spots: Alcoa, Fabrica da Nata and Pastelaria Casa Brasileira. I think for me, the flaky buttery crust of Fabrica won but the custard of Casa Brasileira won for that night.
Portugal is also known for this codfish croquette called Bacalhau but we were so full we did not have the chance to try one for ourselves.
During this adventure, we also walked by Santa Justa Lift (you can pay to get an above roof top level view right in the middle of the city), MUDE and Timeout Lisbon Market. And finally to end the night, went to pink Street where we met back up with Kat at 4 Caravelas and met all her Remote Year friends for drinks. Sam, Victor, Austin and Scott were the ones we chatted with the most.
Lisbon – Porto, Portugal
Sama Sama – same same but different.
After being in Lisbon for less than 48 hours, I can definitely see how Lisbon is the San Francisco of Europe. Incredibly hilly, by the water, impacted by earthquakes and has it’s own version of the Golden gate Bridge (same architect) and has the tram system.
First thing we did that morning was to get up and goto Pastéis de Belém for the OG (if you will) for pastel de nata. To be very honest, it was good but not my favourite. I stand by my choices the night before of the custard of Pastelaria Casa Brasileira and the flaky crust of Fabrica with Manteigueira as a close second overall. Right across the street is Jerónimos Monastery and on the other side of the road that we kept driving past was Belém Tower.
We drove into Lisbon city centre and walked around during the daytime since all the places we saw the previous day was in the evening. Had breakfast at Fauna and Flora where I ordered the Spicy Pumpkin pancakes.
Walked through Alfama area and all the way to the top of Miradouro da Senhora do Monte for the best view of Lisbon. There are steep streets to get up there but well worth it.
A pitstop we needed to goto before leaving Lisbon was for pastel de nata from Fabrica. We ate lunch at Sama Sama. I got the Maggie crepe and the Lemon drop smoothie and we got to eat in their affiliated bar on the corner called Crafty Corner.
We drove 3.5 hours to get back to Porto and returned the car rental by the afternoon. Got to the airport and dropped off our bags in the storage lockers. On our way out of the airport since our flight wasn’t until the morning, we decided to head back into the city however we looked up and saw on tv that they were playing volleyball, albeit a very fuzzy quality screen. We ended up standing there for an extra hour watching before we finally left.
We decided to hop on the metro line and get back into town for one final meal. Walked around a bit trying to find food and ended off at Casinha Baixa Do Porto. We ordered the codfish with creamy potato puree, mini-francesinhas, tripinhas, folded egg with spinach and manchego cheese on bread and finally a smoked salmon salad. We had also looked into this food market type of establishment called Food Corner that housed a different cuisine per floor but we didn’t quite like the options at that time.
The accommodation for the night: Porto airport. One thing we learned about travelling and sleeping in an airport is that if you haven’t checked in yet, you can find the closed cafes and push the chairs together to create a bed. We observed others doing the same and followed suite. We have also slept on floors by power outlets.
Porto, Portugal – London,UK – Stockholm, Sweden
3 airports, 3 countries. Porto – London – Stockholm.
We slept in the airport overnight to catch our 630AM flights. Winnie and myself parted ways (but only for a few days). She wanted to stay in the warmth while I decided to head to the Scandanavian country of Sweden to visit a friend in Stockholm. I landed into Stansted airport in London early in the morning to 14°C but in the sun, felt amazing. Since Stansted is further out of the main city centre and I had another flight to catch in the evening, I stayed put but found a good spot outside of the airport by the bus meeting room by a power outlet. I also found a good spot on the hill in the sun.
I was able to charge up all my devices and catch up on backing up photos. When I travel, I always bring my mogics powerbar so I can share the charging with others. During my charging time, I was able to make friends with a man named Vullant. He is an army chef who lives in London and was coming back from Izmir, Turkey from visiting his mother.
Having plenty of time and the weather cooperating at 22°C, I took back to the hill to catch the rays before I had to go through security.
Ryanair is the cheap budget airline but it can afford to be because it doesn’t fly right into the city centre’s. During my evening flight, luckily I took out my earbuds earlier near the end of the flight as I made friends with the girl beside me – Jamila. She is originally from Holland but lives in London. She was travelling to Stockholm to attend a family wedding.
She was even kind enough to offer me a ride into the city centre however timing wise, her cousin was running late and the bus I originally booked was more feasible. Coming out of the airport, the weather was drastically different from what I had experience so far into the trip at 5°C.
I took the Flygbussarna from Skavsta to the city centre. It took 1.5-2 hours but at least the bus has outlets and USB plugs. I got off the bus around midnight to 2°C but briskly walked to Centralstation and was able to get a glimpse of 2 of the metro stations. I purchased the 72-hour metro card pass for unlimited travel on their transit system.
Through my experience with the travel experiment Yuujou, I was able to connect with what I call the Yuujou 25 family (my digital family from around the world). And in Stockholm, I finally got to meet Isabelle in person finally! (She hosted me during my short stay in Stockholm).
We had an early morning flight from Madrid to Sevilla via Ryanair.
We arrived to the lovely temperature of 27°C – full of sun for the most part but also a little bit of sunny showers. From the airport, we took the bus into town for 4€ to the very last stop – Plaza de Armas. Started off walking over to Triana Bridge and Triana Market where we grabbed pastries and 2€ fruit platters.
We went to Edificio de La Adriática, checked out the outside of Catedral de Sevilla (line was way to long too go in) and Calle Sierpes – cute little shopping Street. We continued to Plaza de España where they have live flamenco dancing on the main steps. The place is massive and a mix of beautiful tiles with a giant fountain in the middle.
We stopped for a late lunch at Berrinche where we ate fried swordfish strips, pork cheek with truffled potatoes and mixed fried veggies.
After lunch, we decided to check out Torre del Oro (not worth the 3€ to go up). We then went across to Plaza de Toros & Museo Taurino but they also had a line and we didn’t want to spend 8€ each. We wanted to rent bikes or scooters but ended up walking by the river and watching a video production being filmed with flamenco dancers. We continued our walk north alongside the river and right by the bus station of Plaza de Armas, we ended up watching a youth in-line skate competition.
We went back to the Airbnb and around 530PM we were famished and decided to go back out in search of a grocery store to get food for breakfast but to no avail. We ended up walking around for a bit in search of dinner but if course, we went out too early for dinner as dinner hours start around 630PM earliest and many of the tapas restaurants we had looked into opened at 830PM. 630PM is prime time for drinking and socializing.
On the long thin strip of Plaza Alameda de Hércules (the popular hang out spot), we did eventually find a place called Casa Paco to have dinner. We ordered the butterfish, cheese board, potato brass, cuttlefish with black garlic and mushroom risotto.
A late sleep-in type of morning with brunch at La Cacharreria de Sevilla. We got the Spanish and the Cacharreria combos that include a yogurt and daily smoothie – presentation and food itself was delicious. We smelled cookies right across and got some too. Continued down the street to see Las Setas De Sevilla. Setas means mushrooms in Spanish and they indeed looked like such. The outer level is raised but is a cool place to hang with a playground.
Since Royal Alcázar was closed yesterday, we tried again today but the line went so far around the building so we opted out. Walking around on a Sunday is a much different feel than any other day as many businesses are closed on Sundays and are more so reserved as family time. It was a beautiful 29°C outside nonetheless.
My dear friend Irene who I met through a travel experiment called Yuujou joined us with her boyfriend Benjamin. She is originally from Madrid and was road-tripping through Spain and attending a friend’s wedding. Luckily timing worked out that we were able to be in the same place at the same time. She now lives in Zurich with Benjamin. This was the first time I was able to meet Irene in person after months upon months of chatting and it was such a fun experience connecting in person.
Since they had been on the road, they dropped their things, changed and off we went to grab a quick clara (beer with lemonade/lemon fanta) and watched the basketball finals between Spain and Argentina (Spain won!). We went to Catedral de Sevilla and La Giralda (when they tore down the mosques to build cathedrals, they left the towers that are of Muslim origin and have no steps but ramps so the generals could send donkeys and horses up with all the necessities as it is 37 floors). It was a lot of winding up a somewhat narrow ramp all the way up with little windows that give you sneak peaks outside. Up top, they still have working bells and 360 views of the city. The main entrance to just the towers are closed for construction but you can enter the tower via the Catedral.
When we finished, we decided to go see a flamenco show at Cuna Del Flamenco. We tried to get in line at Las Setas De Sevilla to go up top for sunset but I hate lines and the sun was already setting. We opted out and kept going.
We walked across Triana Bridge and had a lovely dinner at La Caseta Nonina. We got Irene and Benjamin to order for us. We ordered an array of croquetas, tortilla de patatas con cebolla (Spanish potato omelette with onions), bastones de berenjena con miel de cana (fried eggplant with honey – this was my favourite) and Tinto de Verano (red wine with lemonade/lemon fanta.) We walked around a bit and stumbled upon a procession before settling down at Alameda de Hercules where we played Spot it / Dobble past midnight while we were still surrounded by many people out and about like a group of university students having a jam session.
Sevilla, Spain – Porto, Portugal
In true Sevillian style, we eased ourselves into the morning. We ate pan con tomate (bread with tomato and olive oil) by the nearby church before parting ways with Irene and Ben.
Onwards to Porto, Portugal.
When we arrived in Porto, we picked up our car rental from the airport – we rented a Mini Cooper. Drove into town and then walked everywhere. We really wish we stayed longer in Porto because the Airbnb we stayed at had such lovely vibes and access to the rooftop. The temperature in Porto was cooler than in Sevilla the previous day.
Walked over to Mercado Bom Sucesso and grabbed our first pastel de nata (Portuguese Egg Tarts). Continued on to Jardin do Palacio de Cristal where they were having a huge book fair and further into the park you go, the prettier it gets especially closer views of the water and the town.
We walked by Igreja do Carmo – twin baroque churches (one for the nuns and one for the monks) with a tiled facade and also has the narrowest house in between. It has been said that the narrow house that is built between the 2 churches was built because there was a rule that churches cannot share the same wall or another story stipulates that the house was built so the nuns and monks couldn’t cozy up with one another.
We passed by Livraria Lello (an old bookshop with intricate wooden detailing) which was right around the corner however there was a line and admission (I hate lines) so we skipped it. I believe it is 5€ for entry. This bookshop is incredibly popular because it is where J.K. Rowling got inspired to write her critically acclaimed book series – Harry Potter. Really cool hang out spot right beside that is raised up as well.
Second stop for pastel de nata was Manteigueira. Then on to Sao Bento Train Station that has beautifully painted white and blue tiles. It is still an active hub that sits at a pivotal point in the city.
We continued across the Luis I bridge to have a better view of the city from above and looks over Cais da Ribeira and Ribeira Square. We finished off the night having dinner at Pedro dos Frangos where we had port wine (obviously you gotta have some port in Porto) with sardines and a full roasted chicken.
I heard about this tour company after I left called “The Worst Tours” that don’t have a route set but also, they cater to you and take you on the off-beaten path of the lovely city of Porto. It started with a group of architects.
Back in November 2018, I applied for this travel experiment called Yuujou. It was an open call to people from all over the world. I made top 10 out of 30 000 applicants however top 5 were chosen to go on this 100 day adventure. Yuujou is a travel experiment that would push the limits of 6 travellers by making real life connections. Starting out in Berlin, the 6 travellers (split into 2 groups of 3) have 100 days to get to Tokyo but only travelling through friends of friends.
The best thing about going through this whole Yuujou process were the friendships I made. Yes, the connections for the most part are digital but they have expanded into the real world. On my last trip to Turkey, I was able to meet a new friend Jide in Istanbul who is apart of the Yuujou community.
This Alaska trip was an idea that was sparked between myself and 2 other Yuujou friends. Kenny from Wisconsin and Kat from Rhode Island who became my friends early on in the application process and we had supported each other to the very end. Since none of us got chosen for the Yuujou adventure, we all had other plans for the rest of the year. Kenny decided to start his own documentary journey. Kenny embarked on a 5-month road trip through a big portion of the United States. During our exchanges of updates on life, he told us that Alaska would be his 50th state to visit and both Kat and myself jumped at the idea that we join him and do our own Yuujou adventure. This idea became a reality but unfortunately, Kat was unable to join us. We opened up this trip to our network of friends and for this 6-day adventure. We tried very hard to accommodate everyone’s schedules but in the end, had a pretty good mix of 5 people coming together to explore Alaska.
Kenny’s friends Kushaan from San Francisco, Ryan from Toronto and my friend and old Varsity Badminton teammate Merle from Toronto (who I had only seen once or twice in 12 years prior to this trip).
Many people who go to Alaska tend to do Alaskan cruises but we opted to inland. Our original itinerary consisted of meeting in Anchorage (4 of us) and driving south to Seward to hike at Kenai Fjords, then driving North to Fairbanks and spending 2 days exploring and hiking Denali National Park. Obviously plans change so this itinerary reflects the original plans. If I could change the itinerary after going on this trip, I would have taken out visiting Fairbanks and spent more time exploring Seward and that area. We spent way too much time in the car for my liking.
Alaska is the place where retirees go to experience the outdoors outside (aurora borealis, fishing, nature, hiking, glaciers) unlike Florida where people go to retire on a beach.
-Note that for the month of June in Alaska, the sunrises at 430AM and sets at 1130PM which means tons of light but unfortunately no sights of the Aurora Borealis.
-With the extended hours of light, you don’t have to worry about hiking in the dark however, keep note of the timing especially if you have a lot of driving to do or looking for dinner options as many places close at 10PM or earlier on weekends.
-The temperature for the most part was a low of 8-11C with a high of 18-26C.
-When it says it will rain, we found that it would be sporadic and not last too long. Wait 15 minutes and the weather changes. I brought my rain jacket and wore it for a total of 10 minutes before I got too hot while hiking.
-The weather gets more warm the further inland you go.
-Tons of Mosquitoes – DEET UP!
There are tons of drive-through container coffee/espresso stalls all over Alaska – in town and also on the side of the highways.
Alaska is quite the melting pot of cultures that spans decades. Russian, Japanese, African, Chinese,Filipino etc.
– Hiking poles can come in handy – you can buy at Walmart for $20 or check out Goodwill/Salvation Army. They are not accepted as carry-on items.
– Bear Spray – If you are hiking, it is recommended to carry bear spray – $30USD – can be bought at Walmart but also know it cannot be returned. Make sure to cut off the yellow tie on it. We originally decided against it but another customer in the store suggested it. If you don’t use it and it can’t be returned, you can donate it to your hostel or to Park Rangers.
-Another technique we saw was that people would wear bells to make a discreet noise while they hiked.
*Remember – Black bears – try to be loud and talk them down and run.
Brown bears – play dead
-Reindeer is very popular meat being served.
Now onto the itinerary!
This is the itinerary I had going into the trip. As trips go, they never go as planned.
We met up with the rest of the group at 730AM at a nearby hotel. From Kusadasi, we drove 3 hours to Pamukkale. We drove through a few towns such as Nazili where the average age of life expectancy is 88 years old with oldest being 100. There are no fumes and mountains all around with sustenance being natural nuts. Pamukkale translated in Turkish means Cotton Castle.
When we arrived at the ancient city of Hierapolis, Guray walked us through to show us the theatre, Hades Gate and eventually brought us to Cleopatra’s Ancient Pools. The government protects Cleopatra’s bath. The entry fee to enter the baths are 50TL with a 10TL for lockers and do not include towels. Cleopatra’s bath. The natural waters come from Cleopatra’s bath (36°C) filled with mineral-rich thermal waters that flow down into the white calcium carbonate travertine terraces.
Guray gave us 1.5 hours to roam the terraces. Depending on the week, they choose which portion of the travertine terraces the water will flow to. There are no shoes allowed. The ground is full of so much textures and can be abrasive to walk on at certain points. Be aware that there are patches that are slippery! It was absolutely a perfect day with temperatures reaching 16°C and we finally could soak in some sun. The actual terraces are filled with mineral riched waters but also freezing cold. There is a hot stream of water that flows down which is flowing with the same water coming from the thermal pools of Cleopatra’s Pool.
Our plan was to walk down as far as we could then take photos as we went back up. We decided half way through to not walk all the way down because we would lose the effect of the terraces and it was just so beautiful in every direction so we didn’t need to go further. The sun was out shiny so at certain points we didn’t know if are photos were over exposed or not.
We took our time on these terraces but the path back to the buses is something you should try to take a moment to see. The view from above is different and you can see it all. We went directly to lunch and afterwards like all the other tours, we stopped by a jewelry store.
We got transported to the tour office and since we had time, we went nearby to have a coffee and tea break with Danee and Paolo. The ride to Denizli airport seemed so long but we all fell asleep. Into the airport we went and we all took time apart to just disconnect and connect to social media. A 45-minute flight later and back in Istanbul. Our tour company had arranged rides back to our hotels and it just so happened Danee and Paolo were riding with us back to Sultanahmet/Ortakoy area. Allegra their daughter has a lot of emotion and doesn’t like to say goodbye. We said our goodbyes and our hearts broke when she said “ I don’t want my friends to leave” and tears came rolling down her cheeks. She blew us a kiss and off they went.
Prior this trip, I applied for this travel experiment called Yuujou. It started as an idea to see if we would be able to travel the world from Berlin to Tokyo in 100 days but only travelling through friends of friends. A week before this Turkey trip, I was the first to make it to the Top 10 out of 30,000 applicants in 167 countries (which is still wild to me). Since then, I have many people within the Yuujou community that have been following me on social media. While I am travelling, I tend to post daily on social media (since all the information is fresh – helps me keep organized). I had chatted with another person who lives in Turkey but in another town too far away from Istanbul or the other towns we visited. I did get a message from another Yuujou applicant name Jidechukwu (Jide) and he wanted to meet up if we had time. I had messaged him and originally planned to meet up Friday but we had time Thursday night so we arranged to meet when we arrived back to Istanbul.
Now, back to the night we returned to Istanbul from Pamukkale. We met with Jide for a late dinner. We had taken the tram to the Taksim Square area for a late dinner but by the time we had made it to that area, the restaurant decided to close early so on the metro we went. We arrived at Pehlivan, which was a 24/7 restaurant. You can pick what items you want and just ring it up. They had employees who even carried our food upstairs for us. Jide is originally from Ebu, Nigeria and was a Computer Engineer. He moved to Istanbul about 2 years ago and now is working in the Immigration protocols industry. We ended up talking until 230AM about a whole bunch of things including yoga, football and the correct pronunciation of hippopotamus. It’s a strange but wonderful connection that Yuujou has been able to do and the actual journey for Yuujou hadn’t even begun yet. The Yuujou adventure will take place starting March 31st – with a 2 week workshop in Berlin and the official start date will be April 11th, 2019 – July 20th, 2019. Two teams of 3 will split up (one goes East and the other West) starting in Berlin in hopes of meeting the other team in Tokyo in 100 days. Watch the adventure as it unfolds! YUUJOU