My Bali and Gili Trawangan holiday! Part 2: exploring Ubud

Hello Wanderers!

So, after a few days in Kuta and Seminyak I was ready to leave the westernised part and venture into the inner core of Bali, the village of Ubud. Ubud offers you a jungle escape, a moment of total reconnection with nature and spirituality, as depicted in the book and movie “Eat, Pray, Love”: luxuriant temples, rainforest, waterfalls, yoga and meditation classes… but also adventure activities, traditional village life, organic and authentic Indonesian food, beautiful art. Don’t expect the beach of course, because Ubud is far inside the island… and you don’t really need the beach, because there’s a lot to do and see in this area, I wish I had more time myself!

For my accommodation I wanted something completely different from the hotel in Seminyak. Ubud offers a multitude of private pool villas immersed in nature, where you can really enjoy your stay. I chose Umae Villas and I was absolutely pleased with the choice: perfect location, intimate and quiet, simple and lovely design, romantic and cosy. The pictures below show a few views of the villa we were staying at (Umae Villas count a total of 10 different villas), included the cute square pool (where I even swam naked because yay! it was our private pool) and the ‘rainforest’ bathroom! Breakfast is served in your own garden in the morning, it’s quite basic in terms of choice of food but it does the job (that was the moment I became addicted to having mie goreng for breakfast, to the point of missing it once I was back in London! Insane! Fried noodles?! Me, an Italian?).

Some handy travel tips

When we arrived to Ubud it was raining cats and dogs, and this is a very recurring phenomenon in this part of the island, so if I had to give one precious piece of advice that would be “absolutely PACK A PONCHO”. Umbrellas would ruin your experience, wear a poncho instead and you can dance in the rain while you enjoy your adventures in the jungle. You will soon realise that there’s really a lot to do and see in and around Ubud, and you will have to make the best of your time here. A good thing to do would be downloading the GetYourGuide app and book a private driver for the day: price is usually between 30 and 40£ and you have a personal driver for 8-10 hours (so cheap!), who will follow the itinerary you want, picking you up and dropping you off at your hotel. Here’s a clever use you can do of this service, keep your ears open. As I said, I was staying in Seminyak, which is on the South-West coast of Bali, before going to Ubud. Usually a taxi ride will take around one hour with no traffic (which is basically an utopian scenario in Bali, where streets are always busy) and will cost you the same amount of money as renting a private driver for the day. So why not hiring a driver that would pick you up from an area of Bali in the morning with your suitcases, take you around all day and drop you off in Ubud in the evening? This way you will save money and time, avoiding to waste half a day only to travel to Ubud. 😉 If you don’t want to use the GetYourGuide app, many hotels have their own private driver rental service too, but I’m not sure if it would be cheaper or not. In case, try and haggle a bit.

What to see in Ubud

My villa was very close to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, which I really recommend if you like jungle and animals! This forest is brimful of monkeys and it has an organised pathway you can follow, with members of staff explaining things and helping you getting to know these cute and unpredictable animals. Yep, unpredictable. A moment they are the loveliest thing ever, the moment after they start to fight like in Game Of Thrones trying to bite each other’s head off. A few simple rules when you visit the Monkey Forest: don’t carry valuables (jewellery, wallet, purse…) or at least keep them securely zipped where the monkeys can’t see them, because the little buggers love to jump and steal things; if you want to take pictures make sure you attach securely your phone or camera to yourself and be fast and sneaky, for the reason above; don’t carry food, especially bananas, because they can smell it and attack you. That said, you will be able to experience some beautiful family scenes of these fascinating animals and take the best pictures ever, of them and of the wonderful surroundings (the sanctuary itself is magical and the jungle is lush).

If you watched “Eat, Pray, Love” or if you simply ever typed ‘Bali’ on Instagram you surely have seen the images of luxuriantly green rice fields (paddies), organised in vertical staircase shapes and absolutely beautiful. You can’t go to Bali and not see the Tegallalang Rice Terraces: hire a bike and cycle all along the upper circuit or ask your driver to do a long stop and explore them by walking, so you can soak up all that marvel. These rice fields have some lovely photo spots in the form of suspended nests and cocoons, where you can climb in and have your fantastic picture taken. Ubud is literally full of these photo corners, as much as it’s full of swings, suspended at various (scary) heights. I challenged my irrational fear of height and gave the swing a try… I was launched back and forth in the air and once I stopped screaming like a hyena on fire I really enjoyed it!

Goa Gajah Sanctuary (or Elephant Cave) is another lovely place to visit. The cave itself is really small, with a nice facade but nothing major inside… but the surroundings are breathtaking and it’s such a peaceful place. Like for all the temples in Bali, you will be asked to cover your knees and your shoulder: don’t buy the sarong from the vendors in the outside parking lot (unless you like the colours and you want to bring one home with you), because you will be offered one for free at the entrance, near the box office. Don’t laugh at me in the photos below: my red Sarong didn’t really match the blue trainers and the green t-shirt. Fashion faux pas.

The Ubud area is also famous for some gorgeous waterfalls. Tegenungan Waterfall is a great fun place, where you can admire this cascading wonder of Nature and take the best photographs in suspended nests, love hearts or with wooden angel wings. Bear in mind that there’s a steep and long slope with stairs to reach the actual waterfall, which is perfectly fine when you are going down but it’s a bit challenging on the way up (don’t worry there are spots in the shade where you can sit down a few minutes and sip some water. Bring water with you at all times in Bali!). If you have the chance, visit this waterfall in the late afternoon, when the weather is less humid and it’s less packed with tourists.

Here’s a controversial one. The visit at the Luwak Coffee Plantation. Luwak Coffee is known for being the most expensive coffee in the world, with its well rounded flavour and very low caffein content. To obtain the precious blend, the coffee beans are fed to these civet cats that eat them, partially digest (and here is where the fermentation process happens) and expel them from, ehm, their rear exit. The pooped beans are then washed, dried and milled into fine powder. This practice is controversial for a few reasons, all related to the conditions in which these animals are kept (caged, fed a one-food type diet when they would need a variegated one, etc…). The visit to the coffee plantation has no admittance fee and includes a free tasting of many different teas and hot chocolates as well, which are honestly delicious. The staff are welcoming and they show you the different plants of the field, but you will not actually see much of the process of creation of the blend. Altogether it is a nice place to see, with cute photo spots, but if you don’t want to support animal cruelty in any way just avoid to buy or even try the Luwak Coffee, enjoy the teas and chocolates instead. Bear in mind that some of the products you find in the gift shop are available in town in Ubud even at cheaper prices. So yes, I wanted to list this place as one of the things to see but it’s a tricky one, totally up to you.

Kemenuh Butterfly Park! We stumbled upon this place by pure chance and it was a really nice surprise! You walk across a garden full of butterflies with different patterns and colours… You can follow the various stages of growth from larvae to cocoon to fully adult and even keep a giant moth in your hand. It’s quite warm and humid in the garden, so dress light.

The village life in Ubud is busy but very nice. Visit Ubud Palace in the late afternoon and stay to watch the evening Balinese Legong dance, or venture inside the nearby Art & Craft market Pasar Reni to buy souvenirs. Don’t forget to experience a class of yoga in Ubud: Yoga Barn is the more popular studio, but if you want something more intimate you can try Intuitive Flow.

Food & Drinks

Thanks to the tips of my lovely Spanish friend Bea I got to experience the sultry deliciousness of a dish called beef rendang: it’s a sort of sweet and sour marinated pulled beef served with rice and vegetables, and I loved it so much that I had it almost every day when I was in Ubud. You can taste the best beef rendang at Waroeng Bernadette, which is a place that serves lovely Indonesian food and it’s also super quirky! It’s decor is all made with vintage colourful finds from thrift markets and artistic creations (see photos below!). A few steps after Waroeng Bernadette there’s another interesting restaurant called Biah Biah which serves a long menu with many different Indonesian dishes in the form of little tapas, perfect if you want to taste a few options and have an idea of this cuisine. If you fancy a day meal with breathtaking view on the rice fields, check Kampung Cafe or Sari Organik (they are a bit far, so maybe you can pair them to your visit to the rice terraces!). For a coffee & cake afternoon stop or a bistro lunch with plenty of vegan and gluten-free options I strongly recommend the superb Kafe, right in the centre of the city. For night drinks and chill-out vibes I would suggest the candle-lit ambience of CP Lounge, tapas bar with live music.

Ubud is this and much, much, much more, that I didn’t have the chance to experience in the little time I had… This time I preferred to concentrate in terms of distance the things to see and do, but next time I will definitely try and hike Mount Batur to see the sunrise, see the Tirta Empal Temple and the other smaller but beautiful waterfalls that are a bit far out from the city area.

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Wanna know how my holiday continued? Swimming with turtles, drinking Lemon Bintang and cycling an entire island in less than one hour? Read My Bali and Gili Trawangan holiday! Part 3: Gili Trawangan

🙂

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My Bali and Gili Trawangan holiday! Part 1: Kuta and Seminyak

Hello Wanderers!

My Bali holiday was something I really looked forward to and I planned it with enthusiasm for months, reading posts from all my favourite travel bloggers and shaping up my personal itinerary. Here you can find my experience, tips and suggestions for Kuta and Seminyak, where it all started for me!

Kuta days (and nights)

The strip of Kuta Beach is the closest area to Denpasar Airport and it’s often mistreated and overlooked because it tends to be chaotic and busy: it’s one of the favourite areas for youngsters, full of bars, clubs and discos, with locals offering you taxi rides and all kinds of goods (legal and not) and traffic jams every day at peek times. Said that, you can still enjoy some time in Kuta, maybe a couple of days, if you like places with a buzzy nightlife. For your accommodation I will suggest you three different options for three different budgets: if you want to treat yourself to a luxury room, beautiful Balinese decor and a breakfast buffet that looks like a wedding banquet then take a look at The Anvaya Beach Resort : with its wide choice of suites, rooms and villas, an elegant cocktail bar and all the facilities you can imagine (even for families with kids), this resort will pamper you good. The Anvaya organises tours, excursions and activities for their guests, you just have to book yourself in 24 hours before. The boutique hotel The Vira is another chic and beautiful option in the area, or, if you are on a tighter budget but still want a quality stay with swimming pool and spa services, The Rani will make you happy. All three hotels are on Jl. Kartika Plaza, the main street of Kuta Beach.

I briefly mentioned earlier about excursions and activities you can do in Kuta and in Bali in general. There are lots. Snorkeling, surfing, diving, island hopping, boat cruises, cooking classes focused on Indonesian cuisine… Scattered around Kuta are many kiosks where you can book the activities you like, just remember to step up your best haggling game (although Bali is generally quite cheap and affordable, it’s always good when you can knock a few pennies off the prices and vendors in Bali are usually flexible in this sense). If you want to be able to book your activities with a click on your smartphone I suggest you the great app called GetYourGuide , which allows you to source and book activities by location, anywhere in the world (I will tell you more about some clever use you can do of it in my post about Ubud). When in Kuta, don’t forget to check the Art market for local crafted creations, organic products and wall art to buy at very affordable prices. Kuta has big “western style” shopping malls as well, to satisfy your shopping spree urges for popular brands: you can head to Beachwalk , Discovery or Mal Bali Galeria, to name a few.

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Dinner time! Speaking of food and beverages you can start your night at Bamboo Bar & Grill, where you can enjoy a wide choice of cocktails and bites, resting your feet on the sand-covered floor and listening to a live band playing (very often they give you the chance to jump on stage and sing, so prepare your best performance and have a couple of drinks to warm up!). Another good fun place is Aribar , delicious Mexican restaurant where Sangrias and Margaritas keep you happy and the friendly staff entertain you with impromptu dances… If you are a fan of Indian food you need to check Queen’s Of India, possibly the best Indian food I ever had in my life! You will not be disappointed.

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Seminyak sunsets and pools

Only 25 minutes taxi ride (if you don’t get stuck in traffic!) from Kuta and you are in lovely Seminyak! The most “westernized” part of Bali, the perfect area to have a gradual immersion into the Balinese spirit and wear off your jet lag (believe me, if you fly from London you will need a couple of days to adjust!) enjoying beautiful beach resorts, poolside cocktails, a perfect combination of relax and luxury and some of the best sunset spots!

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For my days in Seminyak I really wanted to pamper myself accomodation-wise, and what a stunning surprise was my stay at De Vins Sky Hotel! I stumbled upon this gorgeous hotel while browsing on Agoda and I’m so happy that it didn’t only match the expectations but it exceeded them in all aspects of the experience. I suggest you to check on Agoda if De Vins Sky Hotel has special deals on their Whirlpool Suites and book one like I did! The room is absolutely stunning and you will have your own private Jacuzzi on the veranda, where you can relax to the sound of the cicadas before getting ready for your night out. The hotel has a lovely spa, a gym, a rooftop pool with bar and a restaurant (I spent literally hours floating on pool mattresses with a Rosella Mojito in my hand, getting my best tan) and the most friendly and smiley staff. Once a week the hotel hosts an event called Balinese Cultural Night, where you can taste an amazing Indonesian buffet and watch a Balinese dance show for the equivalent of just 10£ (yes, that’s another reason to love Bali)!

In terms of sightseeing, the Petitenget Temple is worth a visit and it’s right there in the area, near Seminyak beach and nightlife spots (perfect location!). But make sure that during your stay in Seminyak you save a late afternoon to take a taxi and go and see the sunset on Tanah Lot Temple, because it’s one of the best views you’ll see. I made the mistake to visit the temple in the morning and the sun was high and incredibly hot, so definitely go just before sunset for your own safety! You may want to pair the visit to the Tanah Lot Temple with a day trip to Canggu, another nice area of Bali famous for surfing spots, amazing organic food bowls, art markets and places with a trendy-hipster edge: go there in the early morning, have a beach day, an afternoon of strolling and exploring and finish watching the sunset on Tanah Lot Temple. Sounds very good to me!

Speaking of sunsets, Seminyak offers some of the best clubs, rooftop pools and lounge bars you can possibly have, to enjoy this magical moment of the day. Potato Head Beach Club has the perfect combination for me: hip and artistic edge, infinity pool right before the beach, people getting together on the lawn, cocktails flowing and chill out music… Oh, what a great vibe! You definitely can’t skip it. Other similar places I can suggest are Ku De Ta (very similar setting to Potato Head, less hippy, more “western”, very popular and busy!), Mrs. Sippy (awesome cocktail bar with a huuuge saltwater pool) and La Plancha (spanish tapas bar and restaurant with a colourful explosion of beach umbrellas and bean bags, totally instagrammable!). Dinner time? If you fancy some delicious Italian fine dining you must go to La Lucciola: astonishing candle-lit restaurant on the beach, a bit more expensive than the usual Bali prices but totally, totally worth it! If you want to try a more local cuisine, check Made’s Warung, which has a wide choice of cuisines, from the authentic Indonesian to Thai and American too, great if you are a party of people with different tastes!

Because of their proximity to the Denpasar Airport, Kuta and Seminyak are a good starting point for a Bali holiday, to immerse gradually into the Balinese atmosphere and not be thrown into the jungle straight away! Although Kuta was kind of a handy location for me (I had just disembarked from my contract on a ship in Benoa and Kuta is nearby), net of the night life it’s objectively not the cutest place in Bali. You might consider choosing the near areas of Jimbaran or Uluwatu (a bit more south of Kuta), or even Canggu, as an alternative. But I absolutely loved Seminyak and I’m sure you will love it too!

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Wanna know how my holiday continued? With monkeys, butterflies, rice fields, swings, nests and waterfalls? Read My Bali and Gili Trawangan holiday! Part 2: exploring Ubud 🙂

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Lisbon: a tale of love and life portrayed on blue tiles

 

Lisbon is always a good idea. I’ve just come back from the third Portuguese holiday of my life and it confirmed my thoughts firmly. Lisbon welcomes you wrapping its warm and strong arms around you, then it takes your hands, looks into your eyes with a cheeky grin and spins you in a twirl, before taking you out for one of those fresh, magic summer nights that you would never want to end.

“It’s the weather. It’s always sunny and that reflects on people, people are nice” says Ricardo, who grew up in Lisbon before moving to London fourteen years ago. “It’s the display of the city, it’s old and new at the same time and these two aspects seem to cohabit perfectly with each other”. Like a song by Ana Moura, that’s what I think while he continues talking about his hometown. “Lisbon is a capital, but you can still relax… It’s not overcrowded with people in constant rush, numbed by their daily routines, and the pace is much slower than London…”.

That’s exactly the first impression that strikes when we get off the train in Cais do Sodré, once we manage to leave the station full of vacationers heading to the beach at this time of the year, and while we walk on the lush promenade along the riverside. The area has been renovated in the past five years and now it’s the perfect stroll path to enjoy the sun, the drinks and the suggestive view of the bridge, before arriving to the spacious and central Praça do Comércio.

Passed the Arco de Rua Augusta you are ready to see the core of Lisbon, walking on the beautiful cobbled streets and enjoying the colourful tiled facades of the buildings. The traditional Portuguese tiles used to decorate public and private spaces since the 13th century are called azulejos, from the word “azul” (the colour blue, dominant tone of the tiles).

On the left you’ll soon meet the imponent Elevador de Santa Justa, a big metal elevator designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel: it connects the “low” part of Lisbon to Largo Do Carmo, in the Bairro Alto district. Arriving to the gigantic square of Rossio you can see, on the right hand side from a distance, the beautiful Castelo de São Jorge. Rossio is paved with black and white cobbles in a wave pattern, which brings my mind back to when I was in Rio De Janeiro, walking along the coast of Copacabana. The decor of pavements and buildings in Lisbon is so unique, and it certainly plays a big role in making this city memorable, together with other elements like the traditional trams on railway, the radiant bouganvillea plants, the old shops selling salted codfish and sardines, the pastelarias (bakeries and pastry shops, pure heaven for a sweet tooth like me), the melancholic fado music that echoes from cafes in the evening… Well I could go on for pages and pages, but instead I will let some of the pictures I’ve taken do the talking.

One of my favourite places in Lisbon is surely Alfama. Probably the oldest part of the city, it miracolously survived the great 1755 Lisbon earthquake, managing to mantain all its pitoresque beauty: with its narrow streets and white houses and stairways it reminds you of some Greek island or South-Italian village, but still has its own special feel. One of the best areas to stroll and shop for wonderful pieces of local craft. The little shops and ateliers will delight your eyes with gorgeous pottery, azulejos, art prints and blown glass creations. Do like I did: buy yourself a beautiful red fish made of glass. (Don’t do like I did: don’t break it while you’re doing the dusting at home because you’re clumsy like an elephant smeared with butter on a crystal stepladder). Around the 13th of june, when Lisbon celebrates St. Anthony, Alfama’s streets are decorated with multicoloured buntings and you can indulge in lovely street food (don’t forget to try the grlled sardines, one of the typical specialities of Portoguese cuisine). This part of the city is ideal to experience the fascinating world of fado music. I suggest you to have a nice dinner at a “casa do fado” and even if you don’t speak Portuguese I’m sure you’ll go home at night singing a couple of those tunes you’ll hear, guaranteed! But before dinner, don’t forget to enjoy a stunning view on the city from the Miradouro da Graça.

My Portuguese holiday included some other places, at a reasonable distance from Lisbon, really worth seeing. Here we go!

Belem – It’s the area where you can have the most fresh and delicious pasteis de nata (see next post about Portuguese food)! Have a walk along the riverside and you’ll find the amazing monument called Padrão dos Descobrimentos. Take pictures from different angles, the results are always stunning! Climb to the top (there’s a lift actually) to take beautiful panoramic shots and enjoy the mosaics on the ground below. Don’t forget to visit the Tower of Belem and Geronimo’s Monastery if you have time between pasteis de natas. I barely had any. (Time, not pasteis de nata.)

Cascais – Take the train from Cais Do Sodré to reach this lovely summer retreat near Estoril. Visit the old Fortaleza and the Boca do Inferno (a cliff with an open cave in the rock formed by the ceaseless pounding of the Atlantic waves), enjoy the beauty of the views and stop in a cafe called “Sacolinha” for a lush breakfast with the best pastries and sweet treats ever! (Yes I know, sugary food again… Well, don’t forget to brush your teeth, kids.)

Sintra – Perched upon a hill, Sintra is a really fascinating city and UNESCO World Heritage Site: walking in its natural parks and gardens opens up your lungs and the views are spectacular. Visit the Moors Castle, and try a sandwich with presunto e queijo da Serra from the stalls of local products that you find in front of Palacio Nacional.

Obidos – If you have a car, go and visit this lovely village, home of the delicious ginjinha liquor (see next post)! Very suggestive especially in the evening, with an unmissable Medieval Fair occurring every summer between July and August, where you’ll see a real Palio at sunset, and you’ll drink sangria in characteristic clay mugs that you can take home with you! You’ll absolutely love the experience, guaranteed.

Well… I can’t wait for my Portuguese holiday number 4! This time, if everything goes according to my plans, I’m going to see the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 live! I will keep you updated with news! 🙂

Greek food: a story of love and lust

I’m not only writing a post, I’m actually baring my heart with this and I hope my other half doesn’t mind if I say that I’m desperately in love with Greece. Like I passionately want to make love with her islands, one by one. And send them flowers and open the car door for them and spoon with them at night. Ok stop, weirdo.

Before writing about my two favourite Greek islands, Rhodes and Santorini, the food lover in me wants to dedicate a special post to the Greek cuisine, because no travel experience can overlook the importance of the food component. I’m Italian, and I know it might sound cliché but I love good genuine food and all the memories I have of the places I’ve been are tightly intertwined with my gastronomic experiences.
I don’t how many of you are familiar with Greek food… so, before exploring the wonders of the two pearls of the Aegean Sea I’ve mentioned earlier, here is a quick gastronomic guide which includes some of the dishes I madly stuffed my face with during my Greek days.

Tzatziki. It’s an entree dip, usually served with pita bread or sourdough bread, prepared with Greek yogurt, grated cucumber, garlic, extravirgin olive oil, mint and dill. I’m literally salivating like Pavlov’s dog while writing this, I think I might have to wipe dry my laptop keyboard. Anyway, tzatziki is delicious and sexy. Even though it gives you a garlic breath that can linger for days, compromising your social interactions, but it’s a risk worth taking.
Taramosalata. A pink (but the colour can be paler, it depends on the type of ingredients used) paste made of fish eggs (carp or codfish, usually), lemon, olive, garlic and onions. Another one of my favourites. This kind of appetizers in Greece are called “mezze“, and you can often find restaurants that serve a mix of mezze including tzatziki, taramosalata and other dips like hummus, aubergines paste, feta and peppers paste, etc..
Talking about appetizers and small bites, make sure you try Saganaki (a slice of gruyere cheese battered and fried, often finished with honey and sesame seeds. Holy Mary mother of Christ.) and Tomatokeftedes (tomato fritters with a delicate taste of origan and mint, that will literally serenade your tastebuds before disappearing and leaving you heartbroken like your best Tinder date).

Main dishes. Definitely the Moussakà (the stress is on the second ‘a’ if you want to pronounce it correctly) is a must: a bake of layered sliced eggplant and potatoes, a rich tomato sauce, pork minced meat and bechamel sauce. You can even choose to indulge in any kind of Souvlaki (marinated and grilled meat on skewers) or try the Stifado, a beef stew with shallots and wine. If you are on the go or you’re looking for a filling snack, the Pita Gyros is the answer: a rolled pita bread filled with pork or chicken meat, tzatziki, onions, tomatoes and french fries. It’s highly addictive. No joking, I once had three in a day. ‘Cause I’m worth it.
Of course you always have the light option of a traditional Greek salad, made with feta cheese, black olives, tomato, cucumber and onion, which drizzled with a robust cold-pressed Greek olive oil is simply heavenly.
While in Greece, make sure you don’t miss the amazing seafood, even just some simple fried calamari sprinkled with black pepper and a few drops of lemon juice. So good.

Dessertwise, you can’t end a meal without a taste of the house’s Baklava or Halva (both desserts are originally from Turkey)… and make sure that all your meal is accompanied by several glasses of Retsina, a delicious white wine flavoured with natural pine resin. (I don’t want to be the one who encourages alcohol consumption, but may I suggest a sip of Ouzo or Metaxa as well, at the end of the meal? There’s even a version of both spirits blended with coffee, what more can you ask for?)

Ok, now I’m hungry like a fasting sumo wrestler, so I’d better stop. Hope I made you curious to try this gorgeous cuisine, keep watching this space for my travel experiences and tips about Rhodes and Santorini!

My own Cape Town

The writing of this post is accompanied by a quartet of sighs and a reverb of melancholy. Sailing away from Cape Town for the last time, after two months of regular docking every ten days, was undoubtly emotional. Watching the city skyline becoming thinner and thinner on the horizon, and the majestic montainous trio of Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain and Lion’s Head vanish in the sunset just hashed my heart into peanut butter cookie dough.
This city has, as I often like to say, her own particular vibe, and in such a little time given to me to enjoy her (my work schedule on the ship was often hectic on Cape Town day), she gave so much to my eyes and to my book of memories.

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Table Mountain is the colossal flat-topped mountain that extends for nearly 3 km overlooking the city, and it’s considered one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. To reach the top you can venture up the hiking path or take the cable car (I chose the second option. Because yes, I’m dramatically unfit for hiking).
It’s impossible to put down in words how spectacular the view from up there is. The top of Table Mountain is often covered by a ‘cloth’ of orographyc clouds that form when the wind that blows sideways meets the colder air at higher altitude… so when you are on the top of the mountain you can literally stand or walk inside this cloud of mist, breathing an air that is so pure and crisp that gives you a strange high. I had a few pictures of me taken, and it really felt like standing on top of the world (I had a similar feeling on top of Pão de Açúcar in Rio De Janeiro). My personal suggestion is to walk all along the top of the mountain and find a place that is not surrounded by other tourists, and enjoy the sound of absolute silence, perfect for meditating and clearing your mind (shout out to my friends Will and Magi: you should organise a yoga class on top of table Mountain asap. Yes I know, the flight to South Africa might be a tad expensive. But still.)

Another beautiful memory of Cape Town was when me and my fellow singers rented a car and drove all the way to Boulder’s Beach! It’s a secluded trait of coast in the suburb of Simon’s Town (lovely area! We had lunch at The Lighthouse Cafe, which has delicious chickpea burgers and an ultra stylish decor), in which a colony of African penguins (!) settled in 1982. From just two breeding pairs back then, the penguin colony has grown to about 3000 birds in recent years. They wander freely all around the beach, and they really like to pose and be photographed (I genuinely saw one pulling a Rihanna resting bitch face when it turned its head and saw me taking selfies).

A lot more memories of Cape Town have the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront as background. This is the loveliest harbour I’ve seen in my life, with a big panoramic wheel, a stunning shopping mall and plenty of restaurants and cafes for all tastes… I absolutely loved to wander around in the blinding sun, with the sound of drums and xilophones of street performers, and enjoyed my breakfasts with a view, the tasty white Shiraz wine in Quay Four, the warm summer evenings when I had the chance to be out at that time of the day…

Along the Waterfront you can find two giant yellow frames, and you can take a postcard picture of yourself against the dramatic background of Table Mountain. Not to mention the vibrant art and craft market, and the food market (almost hidden behind all the restaurants), where I could easily spend an entire day!

One morning I really needed to have a walk by myself (it’s an activity that I always loved to do, it’s therapeuthical and useful!), so I took a taxi to Camps Bay and walked more or less 10 km all the way to the Waterfront.

Camps Bay is a pretty summer residential area, with a peaceful seawater swimming pool on the beach, and the view reminded me of Ipanema (yes, Rio again…), with the mountain of Lion’s Head overlooking the bay and the astonishing rocks… Walking and walking I made my way through the gorgeous Clifton area, and arrived to Sea Point, then strolled inside Green Point Park. It’s a very nice itinerary, but I suggest to take a cab once outside the park, because from there to the waterfront there’s basically nothing else worth seeing (and your legs might feel a bit tired!).

There’s a question I always ask people who live in cities that I like (and I find it interesting because of course experiencing a city as a visitor is different than doing it as a native or resident citizen), and I’ve asked it this time as well: what do you like the most of Cape Town? And I don’t mean it in terms of landmarks or things to see, I’m talking more about feelings and states of mind… what do you think you would miss the most in the ipothetical scenario where you would have to leave this city for good?  I collected a few answers, and this is the one I like the most :
“You cannot understand what the air smells like here in Winter. It’s possibly the closest thing to heaven I know. There’s certain days… it smells almost like the sea and the ground at once. It’s really magical. The air is wet and cold but it’s really fresh… The sky is grey and Table Mountain looks turquoise almost then…”.
I’m sad I haven’t experienced this city in her Winter time… but for sure the little glimpse of summer I’ve had in Cape Town warmed my heart of lone traveller away from home, in a very special way.