A Winter Wonderland in Tallinn.

Tallinn had always been high on my list of places to visit. Somehow I had made it to the other Baltic nations of Latvia and Lithuania first, mainly because they were both easier to get to.

It’s is the capital of Estonia, it’s located on the North coast directly across the gulf of Finland from Helsinki. It has a rich history, and was occupied between 1940-1991 by the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and then the Soviet Union again!

52% of the country is covered in forest, and it has one of the lowest populations in Europe at 1.325million.

To reach Estonia we took a flight to Riga and then on to Tallinn from there. It was actually pretty easy and fun because we met up with our friend Amy in Riga airport. It was January so we were hoping for snow and we weren’t disappointed.

We arrived quite late and took a taxi to our cute apartment located right by the old walls of the City. I used Booking.com and we used daily apartments for 7 of us. It was a beautiful space and great location. After a quick change we headed out for dinner.

We ate at a traditional Estonian place where I tried Elk for the first time! It was pretty good and we had a couple of local beers to wash it down, after another beer or two at a nearby pub we walked through the winter wonderland that was the town square with a huge Christmas tree in the center and everything was covered in snow. There’s a big Irish bar situated here and we took the opportunity to try Vana Tallinn, the Cities own personal liquer!

The next day we got up and headed out to explore properly. It’s such a pretty place and the whole old town is UNESCO heritage, we wandered along the old town walls and through a lovely big park at Tower’s square. We stopped at some cute shops along the way and emerged into the town square again.

The town hall is so cute, it was completed in 1404 and is the oldest in the Baltic/Scandinavian region. I loved all the Gothic and Hanseatic architecture, it feels like you’ve gone back in time hundreds of years.

We walked down Viru Tanav which is pretty touristy but not overly busy. It ends at Viru gate, two big towers guarding the way in and out. For €3 you can climb the walls and explore, the views from here of the tiled rooftops covered in snow was amazing.

Tallinn is a great place to wander the little streets and get lost, and that’s just what we did. It felt like a really safe place too. We somehow ended up back in the main square and stopped at another traditional restaurant for lunch, it was pretty expensive so do some research before you go.

Once we were all filled up we decided to head up Toompea hill. It’s a large tableland piece of limestone that sits right in the middle of the City. It’s believed to be the resting place of King Kalev, an important figure in Estonian culture and folklore. Now it holds Toompea castle and the awesome Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, it also houses the Estonian Parliament.

It’s a fun walk up the hill and not too taxing, and once you’re at the top the Cathedral takes centre stage, big and imposing it feels like it sits right in the middle of the hill. It was starting to get dark already due to the time of year and the temperature dropped a bit, luckily we found someone selling mulled wine which was delicious.

There are some gorgeous buildings here, but the main event for me was thge Kohtuotsa viewing platform. This looks out over the whole of the old town, and as night fell twinkling lights began to appear in front of us and it began to snow. It was an amazing spectacle to witness.

We followed a different path down into the town and passed Kiek De Kok which we’d be heading to tomorrow, and freedom square. Freedom square is a big open space which has the cross of liberty as part of Estonia’s memorial to the war of independence.

After a lot of sightseeing we stopped at a bar we noticed along the way, it was called Labor Baar and was totally science themed, you could order test tube shots and cocktails in science beakers and the whole placed was decked out to the max. We stopped to have some food and then walked up to a fun bar that was completely dedicated to Depeche Mode.

After a few beers we realised we didn’t know as many songs as we thought, so off we went to Satumaa karaoke bar! It was a lot of fun and everyone was pretty crazy there, we sang a few songs and somehow managed to wander back to our apartment feeling pretty tipsy.

Albania and the climb to Gjirokaster.

We took the ferry from Corfu over to Sarande in Albania. Albania isn’t high on a lot of people’s lists but it’s starting to make waves as an alternative to the ever popular Croatia.

Sarande is part of the Albanian Riviera along the Ionian sea, and known for white stretches of beach and turquoise waters.

I was excited to see these beaches for myself and experience a new country however on arrival it started to rain! We visited in late march so knew the weather may be against us, so after a little wander around Sarande we stopped and had brunch along the promenade.

Sarande is a small town, the beach is rocky and there’s only a few things to do, such as the old synagogue ruins, the promenade and Lekuresi castle on the hill overlooking the town, though it’s been turned into restaurant now.

Because of the rain and lack of sights we had to think outside of the box, and decided to visit Gjirokaster.

Gjirokaster old town is a UNESCO world heritage sight, dates back to 1336 as part of the Byzantine empire and has a magnificent fortress overlooking the town.

We walked over to the bus station in Sarande and bought a ticket from the office there before being pointed in the right direction to the bus. Buses leave every 30 minutes to an hour and it cost around €3.50.

The bus journey was amazing as we climbed up into the mountains and were rewarded with amazing views of the countryside. We crossed raging rivers and through beautiful flat plains as we approached Gjirokaster. Surrounded on both sides by looming mountains.

The bus took around an hour and 15 mins and drops you off at the main road, so we started our walk with our backpacks in the drizzly rain. It gave the whole place a mysterious vibe with the low clouds.

The first 10-15 minutes aren’t so impressive, but you soon find yourself on windy cobbled streets with beautiful stone buildings lining the road.

We reached the fortress and loved the views over the old town rooftops. The fortress itself costs £1.50 per ticket and houses some interesting statues, a tank and an old plane. A lot of it is in ruin but the main building is still impressive.

After wandering around the fortress and the old town a little more we checked out some cute historical buildings as we descended back down to the main town.

We got some amazing cake and traditional byrek from a little bakery to dry off and recharge. Byrek is a flaky pastry filled with cheese or meat. Even with all the walking Mum was having a great time exploring with me!

We took the bus back with no issues, and arrived back in Sarande in the early evening. We decided to walk along the main road and take a bus to Ksamil, where we would be staying. Unfortunately the bus didn’t turn up, I’m not sure if we got our timings wrong or if it just didn’t run in that hour.

Instead we stopped at a restaurant and had an amazing Albanian red wine and looked out over the bay. We took a taxi to our hotel, which took about 25 minutes and I think we were the only ones staying there! Two older Albanian men greeted us and proceeded to give us a lot of home brewed raki.

Needless to say we got a little tipsy from this, it was a funny experience as neither men spoke much English and we spoke no Albanian. They then drove us to a little kebab place where we ate tasty Greek salad and chips. Funnily enough we were soon sound asleep back at the hotel and looking forward to the next adventure!

Gold Coast Getaway, Coolangatta.

So I had arrived in Melbourne, ready to explore a bit of Australia for a few months. So one of the first things we did was book a flight up to the gold coast.

The gold coast is Queensland’s second largest City/Metropolitan, it’s south of Brisbane and the beaches stretch over 43 miles of pure paradise.

The flight is so quick, and we were soon in an Uber to our cute little home for the next two nights. The Pink Hotel in Coolangatta is Instagram friendly, comfortable and cool. With a secret piano bar, a rooftop terrace and a rock bar.

Check in was nice and easy, the rooms were large with interesting features. We loved the pink fluffy flamingo robes!

After a quick freshen up we went out to explore Coolie. It was warm but with a cold wind and we decided to walk up around snapper rocks and to point danger. The beach was white sand, clear blue water and plenty of surfers, it was paradise.

We were pretty hungry, so we stopped for lunch at this great little place on the main strip called Raw Energy. The food was so good and very vegetarian friendly.

After that recharge we walked around the little peninsula at snapper rock, spotted brush turkeys, lizards and rainbow lorikeets, watched the surfers and enjoyed the beautiful views.

Up on point danger we looked out for whales, and checked out the monument to Captain Cook and some nice little war memorials. There were even turkeys up here! The views down the coast we stunning.

It was pretty windy up there, so we wandered back down and decided to stop for a beer. We chose the rainbow surf club, with it’s cute balcony overlooking the beach and ocean.

Lucky for us it was happy hour! So we sat and watched the surfers, the sun slowly going down and enjoyed ice cold beers. Then to our surprise we noticed fins in the water, and before we knew it a pod of dolphins started leaping, splashing and playing right in front of us to the backdrop of a hazy orange sun.

Sadly there were a lot of bushfires inland and you could see the smoke up high causing the sun to go an eerie red as it set.

This was such a great experience so we were buzzing as we walked back to the hotel. We got changed and decided to try Eddie’s Grub house, the bar attached to our hotel.

It was pretty cool, they had a really fun live band playing country/rock music. The beer was good and the food was delicious, especially the jalapeno hush puppies!

Filled up with great food, we walked over to an interesting statue, marking the divide between two states, Queensland and New South Wales. So we took a couple of fun pics of us in either state and took a little walk along the beach. We finished the night off with ice cream.

The next day we hit the beach, at first the weather was a little cold and wet, but by midday it had brightened up and we had fun paddling in the water, relaxing on the beach and enjoying our little picnic we had put together from the Woolworths on the main strip.

It was great to relax, and we spent most of the day here, going over to the rainbow club for more happy hour drinks and then enjoying the view from the top of the hotel.

Tonight we had a drink at the Coolangatta Hotel, watching the lorikeets come in to nest for the night. Then we walked over to have what is probably the worst pizza of my life. I always thought pizza was something you couldn’t get wrong, but Earth and Sea pizza restaurant managed it.

The pizzas came out with about a cm of water under the base so they were really soggy and super small for the price. Definitely avoid it!

It didn’t dampen our spirits though, so we got mcflurrys from McDonald’s and wandered back to the hotel. I peeked into the piano bar which looked really cool but we were getting up for sunrise in the morning so called it quits.

That morning we got up while it was still dark, got dressed and walked up to point danger. We stood looking out over the ocean, watching the sun slowly come up. Then the most amazing thing happened, we spotted something big come up out of the water and disappear.

There was a little pod of Humpback Whales swimming right past us! It was truly a breathtaking experience and my first time seeing Whales! Sadly they didn’t breach but they did a lot of tail slapping which was fun to see.

We were both super happy to enjoy this experience together, it’s definitely worth getting up early to catch a glimpse of these majestic animals.

Breakfast was at the Bread Social, a really good bakery where we shared a blueberry custard donut and savoury eggplant pie. It was delicious and we’d definitely recommend going there for breakfast/lunch.

The rest of the day was spent on the beach, swimming in the cool clear waters, walking along the surf and then it was nearly time to go! We ate some tasty pokebowls on the hotel rooftop and then took a taxi back to the airport. It’s less than ten minutes away so it’s a great place to stay.

Then we were back on a plane to Melbourne, through the smoky haze of the forest fires which gave the landscape a weird look.

It was a great little getaway and we’d definitely go back to Coolie! I can’t wait to explore more of Australia.

El Nido and paradise at Nacpan beach.

I arrived on Palawan Island in the Philippines, excited to get to the beach after a month of City and Country. I landed in Puerta Princesca, the capital of the island. I knew it was pretty easy to get to El Nido in the North via a minivan. It cost around £10 and took 6 hours.

El Nido is basically the name given to the area you stay in to explore the Bacuit Archipelago, a group of karst islands that is unparalleled paradise.

The journey there was beautiful too, through lush jungle and past dramatic coastline. It was a bit uncomfortable but there was one stop to stretch the legs and eat/buy snacks/toilet.

I finally arrived in El Nido and for some reason hadn’t really planned my itinerary there very well. But I’ll go through it anyway! I stayed at a little hostel called Pawikan which was cheap, clean and only sharing with one other person.

The first thing that struck me about El Nido was how small the little town seemed, stuck between huge karst cliffs, it felt like I had reached a different world. I immediately set off to wander the streets, full of nice looking restaurants, shops and beachfront bars.

El Nido is famous for it’s boat tours, of which you can do A,B,C or D or a combination of them. So there were plenty of places to book, all offering them at similar prices. For reasons unknown even to me, I didn’t book the boat trip immediately, instead I decided to drink a few beers on the beach, got some amazing deep fried chillis and booked a mid morning bus to Nacpan beach for the following day.

Nacpan beach is found North of the town, down a small dirt track that was barely passable. There was one or two hotel/bar/restaurants on arrival, but I was staying at the only hostel. Located right on the beach, The Mad Monkey is a well known chain for backpackers across South East Asia.

After about ten minutes of walking along the beach, a good bonding session with a Swedish guy who had also been on the bus we arrived in paradise. Beautiful beach, clear blue sea and a bar. After checking in we stripped down and got straight on the beach.

I ordered a couple of beers and spent the next 2 days soaking up the sun, drinking heavily, making new friends and enjoying our little slice of paradise.

The mad monkey offered all you can drink for one mad, happy, crazy hour every evening. This is how probably the best experience of my trip started. I had made friends with a Dutch guy called J, and a Ukrainian girl called Svetlana. So we met on the first evening and started drinking, and these were strong rum and cokes and red horse, a 7% San Miguel.

Feeling a little tipsy, I agreed to Svetlana’s request to go for a night swim, now I’m not recommending drunk swimming as it can be dangerous, but off we went with J and a Canadian girl called Sam and dived in. As we were swimming we noticed something odd, we realised that glowing plankton was all around us. Every time we splashed in the water it lit up, if we dived down lights glittered around us.

It was truly an incredible experience, we were so excited and spent so long swimmimg and couldn’t believe our luck. The people working there said it’s super rare to see.

On my last day I felt super ill, hungover and unable to bear the heat. So I cut my trip short by a night, booked a room in El Nido with air con, bought enough snacks to last me at least 2 days and spent the afternoon hibernating. Feeling a little refreshed I finally booked one of the boat trips for the following day.

I was up early and ready to go, our boat left from the main beach and we were soon on our way to small lagoon We arrived and everyone jumped into kayaks, but being on my own I just jumped in the water and started swimming, it was amazing, the water was warm and so clear. It was a lot of fun going through the little cave and emerging into this pool surrounded by vegetation and cliff faces. I couldn’t believe how cool it was.

The next stop was big lagoon! This was just as interesting, it was so shallow as we walked between two cliffs to then dive into the deepest blue lagoon ever. I could see fish swimming in the depths beneath me and it was a nice way to cool off.

Even sailing between all these islands was amazing, like a less crowded version of Ha Long Bay in it’s beauty. We stopped on this tiny beach for lunch and got to explore and swim a bit. The lunch was great, even for a veggie like me.

It was too rough and busy to go to the secret lagoon which was a little disappointing, but we headed off to 7 Commandos beach. Here I went snorkelling for ages, saw clown fish, a big white sea snake and loads of other colourful fish. Then I attempted to play beach volleyball, I was pretty bad but it was still fun. Although I think the Filipinos were a bit more competitive than me. I was also told you could sometimes see turtles!

After lazing on the beach with a coconut it was time to head back. I had really enjoyed the trip and to top it off we had a karaoke competition on the way back and I won! With a beautiful rendition of Oasis – Wonderwall.

After a busy day swimming and still feeling a little rough from Nacpan beach I had a tasty dinner and booked my bus back to Puerta Princesca in the morning. Looking back I wish I had spent more time in El Nido and planned my itinerary a little better. I rushed off and regretted not going to Coron and even maybe doing a different boat trip, but there’s always next time!

Hong Kong and Victoria Peak.

After leaving Hanoi it was a short flight to Hong Kong, it’s so easy to get into the centre using the airport Xpress. I wasn’t feeling too great but I had booked a night at the Metropark at causeway bay earlier in the year so I was excited to have some more luxury.

I checked in and immediately took in the stunning views over Hong Kong Island at Victoria bay. I loved it and the rooftop pool was incredible! I decided I would go up Victoria peak for the sunset and off I went, stuffed full of anti-flu meds, I took the Subway.

It’s so easy to take the underground, you can get a 24hr pass or pay stop to stop. I went to central and then started the ascent to the tram that would hopefully take me up to the peak. Unfortunately I got a bit lost, my map apps wouldn’t work in between the big buildings, I felt like crap and it was so humid I couldn’t stop sweating.

So by the time I eventually found the tram, and realising I had walked halfway up the peak before walking back down, the queue was huge and I knew I wouldn’t make it for sunset. I was annoyed because it was a clear day and I had read they can be few and far between in Hong Kong.

I decided to make the most of it so walked along the harbour side and watched the old junks with their red sails ferry around the water. I got some Durian ice cream, I thought I would try it and it was not a good idea, definitely an acquired taste!

Night started to fall and I took the Ferris wheel near the ferry port to get an amazing view of the City. It was so cheap too, the HSBC building was the best but all the lights were insane!

I walked back along the harbour watching the lights on the mainland. I took the Subway back to causeway bay and found a dumpling shop, got a load of veggie dumplings, a few soft drinks, then found moon cake at another store.

I took it all back to my hotel, and devoured it while looking out over the City. I wasn’t sure what to think of Hong Kong after my first day, but I was looking forward to exploring more over the next few days.

I woke up the next day feeling worse than ever, with a definite case of tonsillitis. So I went to the shop and got salt, proceeded to drink gallons of water and did a load of salt rinses. I tried to enjoy the pool again but it wasn’t the same, I also had to check out of the hotel and into a tiny cheap one in the centre of causeway bay.

It was the smallest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in, but it was only £20 and the location was amazing. I stopped and had lunch nearby waiting for check in time, I was frustrated because I had lost almost a full day, but I forced myself out, and managed to get to the Victoria peak tram in time for sunset.

It’s a fun journey, very touristy but the views you get at the top are spectacular. I took a couple of the City by day, then enjoyed a gorgeous sunset over the mountains and sea before the main event. Hong Kong lights up at night in an incredible way, and Victoria peak is one of the best places to enjoy it.

Once I had taken it all in, I headed back down on the tram and wandered towards the central-mid-level escalators, the longest ones in the world! It spans 800 metres and it’s a great way to see the City without having to do the leg work, and I found a random art installation at the top of the escalators.

I found some cool street art around this area too, which I definitely want expecting. I finished the night with a beer and some more veggie dumplings. Tomorrow I was up early to head over to the big Buddha and explore mainland HK.

Back once again in Bangkok.

Waking up in Chachoengsao I packed up the few things I had taken out of my bag and Liam, via 5 minutes of driving down the wrong side of the road got us to the station.

The ticket cost about 10 Baht to take us on the hour long journey to central Bangkok. I got some tasty coconut batter snacks for the train and we began our short journey. It was so pretty as we passed rice fields filled with storks and the scenery starting to become less country and more City.

Liam had recommended a hotel near Asok train station so we alighted there and ten minutes later we were checking in. It was a really nice hotel and I had splurged for the executive lounge so we could get breakfast, afternoon snacks, and free drinks in the evening.

After a chillout by the pool with a Pina colada we got some free lunch at the lounge and headed towards Siam Square for the magical rainbow cheese toastie. Bangkok is pretty easy to navigate with its metro and SkyTrain and along with 7/11s they make a nice reprieve from the heat.

We arrived at Siam Square and found the Hokkaido Cheese Toastie shop on the ground floor of the mall. We ordered some drinks while we waited for the rainbow toastie and then realised they were cheesy drinks! Actually they were delicious, Liam had strawberry and I went for matcha and they had a cheesecakey float on the top.

Then the rainbow toastie arrived and it was everything we were hoping for and more. So pretty but also super weird as the different colours are different fruity flavours. But cheese.

We wandered around the mall for a bit checking out the randomness of it all, then found the Hello Kitty cafe. I was super excited but it was actually a bit disappointing inside, and the menu was overpriced so we didn’t stay. Instead we walked along the skywalk, checking out Erawan shrine from above and finally jumping the SkyTrain back to Nana for a beer and to people watch.

We sat here for a while watching ominously as dark grey clouds closed in on us before the heavens opened up. It was past 6 at this point and we wanted to enjoy the free drinks and food at the hotel, and after a soggy 40 minutes of being packed into the SkyTrain and metro like sardines we made it.

The food was great and they had plenty of vegetarian options, Liam was super happy he could drink white wine too as it’s something of a luxury for him. Feeling a bit tipsy we got changed before heading to Tuba antique restaurant and bar. A cool little place off the beaten track that Liam had suggested.

We arrived via taxi and it was pretty cool, lots of random objects dotted about the place and tasty cocktails which were huge! We sat at the bar and chatted through the night till I was too tired to talk. So we walked slowly back to the hotel and I passed out almost immediately.

I woke early in the morning, and went for a refreshing swim before trying literally everything vegetarian on the breakfast buffet. I waited for Liam to wake up and we got ready to head out. We wanted to head to Chang Chui market with its cool abandoned planes but realised it’s closed on a Wednesday.

Instead we headed to Jim Thompson’s house as a last minute decision, and it turned out to be pretty cool. It wasn’t super expensive about 200 Baht, this includes a tour of the house in your language. It was cool seeing this snapshot of post WW2 life for an expat and the gardens and decor were stunning. It’s also easy to get to, just take the SkyTrain to National Stadium and it’s a 5 minute walk from there. We also checked out the canal just past the house.

e took the BTS down towards Lumphini park, this place is famous for its water monitor lizards though unfortunately Bangkok council had the majority of the big ones removed as they were becoming a nuisance in the City, including one casually walking into a Tesco.

The park itself is a nice break from the city and you can rent bikes or pedalos. We visited in 2015 and it seems like it’s in a constant state of fluctuation. We enjoyed the lizard hunt and were rewarded for our endeavours by spotting a big one eating an even bigger fish.

From here our plan was to take the BTS around to Sala Daeng and hit the unicorn cafe, but Liam dropped his phone somewhere in the park. Luckily a local found it and we managed to get it back but by this point it made more sense to walk down to the cafe.

It was about a 25 minute walk from Lumphini to Silom district where the cafe is and it was totally worth it. Bright and garish it was like a crazy acid trip, with unicorns hanging from the ceiling and the most colourful desserts menu I have ever seen.

We ordered some iced drinks and one of the rainbow waffles, the drinks were so sugary and sweet we had to wait for the ice to dilute them a little but the waffles were incredible.

Buzzing from the sugar rush we wandered up towards the main street in Silom near the BTS and grabbed a couple of beers. We were going to head to some of the gay bars but they didn’t open till 6pm and like needed to get back to Chachoengsao.

It turned out we probably could’ve gone there as the BTS was full of commuters so we decided to risk the Bangkok traffic and take a taxi for 100 Baht. Google maps said it would take 45 minutes but almost 2 hours of bumper to bumper cars we finally arrived at the Avani.

Liam quickly sorted out a taxi back home and I prepared for my morning departure to Myanmar, the first official leg of my tour.

Gili T and the Waterlice

Even after doing so much sightseeing every day, 2 days of relaxation and chilling out was enough for us so we decided to take a boat trip out to some cool snorkeling spots where we might see more turtles and some other cool sealife. Our hotel organised it and after being escorted to the boat we jumped and were given the chance to have flippers.

The boat was fun and pretty rocky as we crossed between the islands to Gili Meno and turtle point! Once we reached our spot everyone jumped in and followed our snorkel guide. As we were swimming it felt like something had stung or bit me! I had a bit of a panic and quickly looked around me but I couldn’t see anything.

This continued for the rest of the swim as we watched turtles far below us grazing on the seabed, one of them came swimming up to the surface and the whole group went crazy trying to get close to it, why can’t we just enjoy things without having to touch?

I later found out that the little stings I was getting were from sea lice – more on them here : https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/oceanfit.com.au/education/sea-lice-an-itchy-problem/amp

The swim took us to our boat which had gone ahead and was waiting for us all. We jumped back on and sped off to the next snorkelling spot a little closer to the shore. The fish here were good and it was fun being a bit further out than I had dared the day before, but after the 3rd spot it all became a bit too similar. Even though we were in a group of 20 or so I never felt too crowded apart from the turtle moment.

We stopped on Gili Air and had a little wander and a beer to celebrate a good days snorkelling before heading back to Gili T as the sun was starting to go down. When we got back Peter decided to go for a massage, but I was only interested in seeing that amazing sunset one more time.

So I walked over to the West side of the island and sat at a table, ordered a beer and watched an incredible sunset over Bali. It was sad to think that tomorrow would be the last day we spent in Asia. That night we went back to the BBQ place where I had lobster and Peter had steak. It was so good and cheap compared to back home, but expensive compared to the rest of Bali.

Gili T and the Turtle

Today we decided to relax on the beach on the North West of the island and do a lot of snorkeling, so we met up with Liv and Jord and took the same track from yesterday up to the beach.

It was hot and beautiful as we walked along, showing the others the swings and pointing out a few of the more interesting parts of the route. We made it to the beach and, donning our masks we started off through the shallow rocky water to get to the good stuff. We did see a few starfish on the way, but as soon as we dove into that clear water a whole world was revealed.

We saw all sorts of colourful fish, definitely more than the day before and as we got further out huge schools of fish greeted us and we followed them around, spotting some pretty big fish in the depths.

I even saw a barracuda hovering near the surface only a few feet away. Thankfully we didn’t see anymore sea snakes, and it was nice alternating between snorkelling and sunbathing. I would say that you could do with getting some aqua shoes as the shallow part of the sea was pretty rocky and spiky.

After sunbathing and relaxing with a beer or two Jord and I headed back out to snorkel. We went pretty far out and saw some big fish and even tried to find some reef sharks to no avail. After about an hour or so we were about to give up our turtle hunt when I noticed something in the distance. Wildly gesturing to Jord we Sam like mad men in that direction and as we got closer our excitement grew. It was definitely a turtle!

It was so majestic as we swam alongside it, we took a few photos and the turtle seemed so relaxed. We followed it for quite a long time before realising the sun wax going down and we were a good 20 minute swim/walk from the others. So we said our goodbyes to the turtle and headed for shore, making it back just in time to watch the sun set behind Mount Agung. It’s definitely in my top 3 sunsets I’ve ever seen, the sky was such a deep red as we sat there listening to nice chill out music and sipping a cold beer.

After all the excitement and swimming we were pretty tired so headed back to the hotel and ate at the restaurant before turning in, wondering what tomorrow would bring.

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.

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.