Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania – Part 2

So here are the remainder of my photos from Ngorongoro Crater. Again, I cannot stress enough how incredible the crater is – I will highly recommend visiting if you’re ever planning a safari in Africa.

We were incredibly lucky to see some of the animals were saw during our day exploring the area. Not only did we see a herd of elephants extremely close-up, but we also saw a number of lions within a few metres of us – one actually laid down in the shade right beside our car.

We saw the first lion on the side of the road. A few cars were parked in a row, so we drove over to see what the commotion was about. We asked another group what was going on and they said that there was a lion in the river bank beside the road. We waited hardly a few minutes, when the lion emerged. She walked up towards the vehicles, coming about 10 metres from them, had a look around for a minute or two, and then returned to her spot in the shade. We couldn’t believe it – it was as though she had come up simply so we could take a few photos of her.

Further down the road we saw three other lionesses together basking in the sun and standing in the shade of a car. We parked about 5 metres from this car and were able to take some fantastic shots. Then the lion leisurely walked over to our car and laid down in the shade. We leaned over the car, but our guide warned us that it was a cat and cats can jump. But we were so amazed that a lion was less than a metre from us. And of course, it was an incredible experience.

After admiring the gorgeous landscapes filled with numerous wild animals (zebras, wildebeests, ostriches, hippos and more) and having a relaxing lunch by the lake, we had to bid a teary farewell to Ngorongoro Crater. But we left with some fantastic photos and even better experiences.

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Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon is one of my favourite cities in the world (and I’m not only saying that because I meet my boyfriend there). The city really is incredible – the architecture, the food, the quaint little streets, the people, the nightlife, the shopping… There are just so many aspects that make Lisbon a must visit city.

I was extremely lucky during my visit to Lisbon, as I was equipped with an amazing itinerary which was given to me by some friends who are from Cascais (a seaside town located just outside of Lisbon and also the subject of my next post) for a four day stay in Lisbon. I had initially asked for some suggestions as to what I should see and do whilst in Lisbon, and in reply I received a two page essay on how to have an unforgetable four day stay in Lisbon. I’ll have to share with you some of their suggestions for places to eat and things to see and do, from a local’s perspective. I was also lucky to be travelling with a friend, who incidentally bumped into a Portuguese friend of her’s in Chiado on our first day, so we ended up spending the next four nights with him and his friend (now my boyfriend) partying in Bairro Alto or Cais do Sodre until the wee hours of the morning.

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A few things to see in Lisbon:

Alfama: The oldest district in Lisbon and perhaps the most beautiful. Situated on and around a hill, the district is a maze of small narrow, and usually steep, streets, which has its own particular charm. It has always been and still is a lower class district, but it is the richest in culture and history, especially since, unlike the rest of Lisbon, it was not decimated by the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake. From Alfama you can get the best views of Lisbon. The best viewing places are from the Castle Soa Jorge and Miradouro Santa Luzia (which I think is the best).

Lisbon nightlife: Perhaps the best in Europe. If you’re a fan of big nightclubs, head to LUX, Av. Infante D. Henrique Armazém B Loja 8 – it’s the place to be. But don’t arrive until 2 or 3am. If you prefer to bar scene, go to Bairro Alto or Cais do Sodre. The small streets in these districts are littered with bars, but everyone is drinking in the streets. There is such a good atmosphere, you don’t even realise the time going by, until the sun starts to rise.

Portuguese Tarts – The real ones!: Take the tram from downtown Lisbon to Belem – just west of the centre, by the sea. Visit Pasteis de Belem, Rua de Belem nr 84-92. This is the home of the original Portuguese tart. They still use the original secret recipe and there is always a line out the door. But they are worth the wait.

Out Jazz: Every Sunday afternoon, Jardim da Tapada das Necessidades, located in Chiado, is full of beautiful people chilling out in the park and listening to jazz. A nice way to wind down after a crazy weekend partying.

Shopping: Lisbon is a great place to go shopping. Aside from all the big labels, such as Zara, Mango, H & M, etc. There are a few beautiful little boutique stores hidden throughout the city. One of my favourites is A Vida Portuguesa, where you can buy also sorts of traditional Portuguese products, from sardines in a can, the porcelain, textiles, cosmetics, etc. Another store I fell in love with was Santos Oficios Arts, Rua Madalena 87. This shop is filled with Portuguese handicrafts, all created by local artists and art cooperatives. I bought a beautiful patchwork quilted bag. Devine!

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Places to Eat: I was given an exhaustive list of restaurants to eat at in Lisbon. Unfortunately, we only had the chance to try a few of them.
–    Pharmacia: tapas @ Rua Marechal Saldanha, 1 (make reservations +351 213462146)
–    Esperanza: Italian @ Bairro Alto, Rua do Norte nr 95 (makereservations phone: +351 213432027)
–    Buenos Aires Café: Really really AMAZING steaks @ Calçada do Duque 31 B (I suggest that they make reservations for a table outside phone: +351 213420739)
–    Lost In (for evening drinks or brunch/ snacks): Nice terrace with a view. To chill out @ Rua Dom Pedro V 56, Principe Real
–    Enjoy a bottle of wine or have lunch at Chapitô (in Alfama, Costa do Castelo, n.º 1 / 7)
–     Petiscaria Ideal (Delicious tapas @ Rua da Esperança 100, Santos)
–     The Independent Hostel (Rua São Pedro Alcântara 81)
–    Go for brunch at the Kaffehouse (Rua da Anchieta nr 3, Chiado)

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Essentials:

Getting There:
Lisbon is well connected by air, rail and road. There are good connections between Lisbon and other major cities throughout Europe. Lisbon is well connected by rail to other Portuguese cities – there is now a high-speed train and fares are cheap, making travel around Portugal from Lisbon rather pleasant. Unfortunately, we took the difficult and uncomfortable route on our arrival to Lisbom, taking an overnight bus from Seville, and getting little sleep in the process. Arriving at the bus station in Lisbon at 5am in the morning, having to wait for the metro to start to get to our hostel, and then finally arriving at our hostel and having to wait for a 10am check-in wasn’t the most luxurious of our travel experiences.

Where to stay:
We stayed at Good Morning Hostel, Praça dos Restauradores 65, 1250-188 Lisbon, on the recommendation of a friend who knows the owners. The hostel is extremely well located in the very centre of Lisbon, the staff were friendly and helpful, the rooms and common areas clean and beautifully decorated, and the breakfast of all you can eat and freshly baked waffles didn’t go astray. I have to say it was one of the best hostels I’ve stayed in.

Eat:
There is a list in the main body of this post of some great places to eat in Lisbon. One that I can strongly recommend is The Decadente, at The Independent Hostel. The decor of this restaurant come bistro is fresh and funky and the food is first class. For the quality and flavour of the food, the prices are surprisingly good – you can have a main course and a glass of wine for 15 euros.

Seville, Spain

Before I start, one thing I have to say about Seville is that I recommend, if at all possible, not to visit in the hight of summer. Although such a beautiful city, rich in culture and history, it becomes unbearably hot in July and August. We visited towards the end of August, and apparently we just missed a two week long heatwave. We missed it, meaning that the 35 degree celsius days we were experiencing were cooler than those the previous week. So, if you’re not a fan of hot weather, try visiting Seville in the spring or autumn months.

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Ok, so Seville, known as Sevilla by the Spanish, is the capital of Andalusia. The city was founded in Roman times, during which is was known as Hispalis. It was conquered by the Moors in 712 and became the capital for the kings of the Umayyad Caliphate. In 1248 it was conquered by the Christian King Ferdinand III and continued to developed under the Christian influences.
Today, Seville is a major tourist attraction for visitors of southern Spain and Europe in general. There is a plethora of places to stay, fantastic restaurants to eat in and a myriad of places to visit and explore.

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Places to visit:

The Cathedral of St Mary: This Christian cathedral was built on the foundations of the original Islamic mosque which was located on this site. Containing both Christian and Islamic design and motifs (the Giralda, which was originally a minaret and later converted to a bell tower, is a clear example of the converting and blending of the original Islamic building to a Christian church).

The Alcazar: The former Moorish Palace. A blending of Moorish, Renaissance and English traditions, the rooms and gardens of this palace are impressive and worth the visit.

Plaza de Espana: Set in Maria Luisa Park, this enormous and impressive building was built by the architect Aníbal González for the 1929 Exposicion Ibero-Americana. Today it is full of people enjoying the sunshine, admiring the building and exploring the adjacent park.

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Getting There:
There are regular bus and train services between Seville and other major towns in Andalusia, such as Cordoba and Seville. There are less frequent services to smaller towns and villages, as well as inter-city and international services to and from destinations such as Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon.

Stay:
We stayed at the Oasis Palace Hostel. Like others of this chain of hostels, it offers everything you want and more from a hostel – good location, clean rooms, organised activities, complementary breakfast, happy hour and even a roof-top swimming pool. Aside from having continuous problems with a card key to get into our room, we thoroughly enjoyed our time at Oasis Palace Seville.

Eat:
Aside from frozen yogurt (the best one is located beneath the Metropol Parasol), all three nights we stayed in Seville was had a tapas dinner at Dos de Mayo, Plaza de la Gavidia 6. This was by far the best tapas we had in all of Spain. The food, the service and the entertainment by the bar/waitstaff was second to none. Try the grilled squid, drizzled with extra virgin oil oil, garlic and parsley, or the eggplant fritters, lightly battered and drizzled with molasses syrup.

Cadaques & Tamiru, Spain

Whilst staying in Barcelona, we hired a car for the day and did a little road trip up Costa Brava, visiting the small towns of Cadaques and Tamiru. It was a nice break from the hussle and bussle of Barcelona (and cities in general – prior to visiting Barcelona, we spent a few days in Berlin). We enjoyed the open roads, fresh sea air and the small town/holiday atmosphere.

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Our first stop was Cadaques, located about a two hour drive north of Barcelona (take the E-15 freeway and turn off at Figueres. From there you will see signs to Cadaques. Or just simply take a GPS). Once you arrive in Cadaques, follow the signs to the council carpark – although the parking fee is quite high, there are plenty of parking spaces, which are scarce throughout the rest of the town. The carpark is also only a short walk to the town centre. Cadaques is reasonably small and easy to navigate – although, like many small old towns, it’s not difficult to get a little lost in the labyrinth of small, narrow, windy cobblestone streets. Cadaques is a beautiful little whitewashed seaside town. We unfortunately visited on an overcast day, but I can imagine that it would be absolutely spectacular on a clear summer’s day.  It’s little wonder that Salvador Dali, and other well known artists, such as Miro, Picasso and Duchamp spend summers in the town. I’m sure it gave them plenty of artistic inspiration.

To get the best view of Cadaques, take a little walk along the promenade which circles the bay in which Cadaques is located. No visit to Cadaques is complete without tasting their exquisite gastronomy, particularly their seafood. Being originally a fishing town, Cadaques prides itself on the quality of its seafood. Many restaurants serve up a delicious paella, or many have set tapas menus, which often serve up a variety of seafood delicacies. Being so close to the French boarder, many people in Cadaques can speak French fluently. So if your Spanish is non-existant (such as ours was), and your French just a little rusty, it is a great opportunity to practice.

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After Cadaques, we drove back south towards Barcelona and took a little detour to the tiny town of Tamiru. I would have never thought to visit Tamiru (it doesn’t even appear on many maps), except that my friend in Barcelona mentioned it as a friend of ours worked there one summer and said it was one of the most beautiful and untouched little towns in Costa Brava. To get there, follow the signs, or your GPS to Palafrugell. From here, there will be some small signs to Tamiru which you follow (ignor your GPS, as it, like ours, may lead you down a dirt road about 2km from Tamiru with leads to nowhere). As you drive town the steep and narrow pinetree lined road leading into Tamiru (make sure you stay away from the cliff edge), you will get glimpses of the picturesque bay which appears to be hidden away from civilisation. Again, park in the council carpark (at arount 1 euro an hour, it’s a bargain compared to the parking in Cadaques. There isn’t much in Tamiru except for a few houses, a couple of hostels and a handful of cafes and restaurants. But that’s the beauty of Tamiru. We were lucky to arrive as the clouds were parting and the afternoon sun was glistening on the sea. The crystal clear water was so inviting, that as soon as we arrived, we jumped in. We spent the final hours of the afternoon just basking in the serenity of the beach and enjoying some delicious gelato.

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IMG_8759Essentials:

Getting there:
We hired a car from Europcar (located on Gran Via, Barcelona). It’s best to use a GPS if it’s your first time in Barcelona to get out of the city, but once you’re on the E-15 freeway, the drive is quite simple – most decent sized town are market on the freeway exits. This freeway north of Barcelona is one of the most expensive in Spain. I think our total tolls there and back were about 20 euros. Staying on the freeway, although expensive, saves a lot of time, especially if you’re only doing a day trip. But if you have time to spare, taking the coastal road would be a lot more scenic and interesting.

Eat:
Seafood! Costa Brava is famous for its seafood. This is the place to try Spanish paella. Try it in different restaurants, as everyone has there own spin on the all time favourite and iconic Spanish dish. And like everywhere in Spain, tapas is extremely popular in Costa Brava, particularly the seafood options.