Posts Tagged With: holidays

Table for one, please.

There is something quite liberating in approaching a restaurant and, with the confidence of an Olympic games medallist, say: – Table for one, please.

I recently travelled alone to Lisbon, in Portugal, and I really wanted to experience their culinary. I usually have no problems being on my own, but I have to say… it had been a while since I sat in a restaurant, ordered a dish, ate and paid the bill entirely on my own, having just myself as company during the meal. It was almost like a new experience for me. Something that represented freedom in many ways.

Eleven years ago I went travelling in Italy. For 10 days, I explored Italy completely on my own. My goal was to see as much as I could, so I started in the south and made my way up north. The great thing about this trip was that I didn’t have any hotels booked, no train timetables printed out, nothing. I didn’t even know all the places I could go to. I just went. I was literally arriving in each city and fighting for survival (ok, that sounds a bit too extreme, but if I chose not to do anything, I’d literally sleep on the streets and probably get arrested or something). Arriving in an unknown place, not knowing where I’d sleep that night was such an adventure. Yes, of course I know that many people have done that before a million times, but I recall that experience one of the best ones of my life. I felt so proud of myself every night when I laid my head on a pillow, knowing that I made my way there on my own. I guess it was the time I felt most responsible for myself. And that didn’t change since then, so I suppose it was a bit of a turning point.

caminhando sem rumo

There is a lot more to travelling alone than just finding a bed, though. You can decide everything… ON YOUR OWN. You are the queen of your own trip and no one will dare telling you what to do, because no one knows you! I find that visiting a place alone works as a great opportunity for a very close meeting with yourself. You can get your mind wandering about everything and not get these thoughts interrupted by people talking to you. It’s like meditating the whole time, with amazing discoveries along the way.

On this recent trip to Lisbon, I remember getting out of the hotel (yes, I had booked it in advance – I guess my gypsy ways are gone) and looking to the right and to the left. I then remember thinking: which way should I go? I answered my own question by giving myself a little spin and thinking: whichever side I face, that’s where I’m going! To the right it was, then. On this trip, I walked, walked and walked the entire time. I didn’t have a long time to explore the place and I wanted to make the most of it. However, although I did see amazing sights, what I felt most amazed about was the way I was feeling. Walking down the street, with a fresh breeze on my face and the impulse you get when you are walking downwards, combined with the very appealing idea that I had no clue where I was going gave me this fantastic feeling of freedom. It was almost like I was floating on the streets, just letting that breeze take me wherever. And my mind was wandering all the same, making up all these thoughts that would come in and go out in the speed of light.

I had two incredible days in Lisbon. I just couldn’t believe how insightful it was to just detach myself from my usual surroundings for a couple of days and what a difference it made to my outlook on life. That freedom, that adventurous spirit stayed with me, and reminded me of the girl I was 11 years ago. It reminded me of my courage, of my ‘happy-go-lucky’ ways, of my free spirit. The same one that I’m not letting feel trapped ever again, for whatever reason.

Sometimes we just need a gentle reminder of who we really are to go look for that person inside ourselves and bring them back.

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Categories: Insights, Travel tips, Travelling alone | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fall in love in a ‘Split’ second

My recent trip to Croacia was fantastic. I have already blogged about the island of Vis but, during the week I was in Croatia, I also visited Split and Dubrovnik. So, here is a bit about Split…

Split is situated in the Mediterranean Basin of the Adriatic sea, and it was where I spent the first few days of the trip. It was also the place that gave me those valuable first impressions of a country. With its palm trees on the Riva Harbor and water everywhere you look, I’d say it’s easy to fall in love already on the first day of visit. I’m usually one of those that fall in love with a place pretty quickly and I immediately know if I like a location or not. It was different with Split, however. And this is because Split is one of those places that reveals itself slowly, presenting you with little surprises around each corner, almost like people in love that want to retain the attention of their loved ones when they have just started dating. It didn’t take long for me, though. In 3 days, I was head over heels in love.


Riva Harbor -perfect place to have a coffee and just watch the world go by…


Riva Harbor at night

One of the oldest cities of the region, Split  has a population of nearly 180,000, who in their majority work in commerce, in tourism or in the food industry, selling fish, olive oil and wine. Since 1998, Split hosts the Annual Croatian Boat Show. During my vist, the show was on and I could see how many visitors it attracts to the place.


Boats everywhere!

Split’s main attraction is the old town, where you can find the buildings that still stand from the former Diocletian’s Palace, which dates back to 300 D.C. Diocletian lived in the palace until he died and, to this day, the place is home to a considerable number of families (even though a local told me that this number reduces by the year, mainly because of the age of the building and the problems that come with this). The remaining buildings of the entire old town are classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Diocletian’s Palace – old and new together

Deocletian’s Palace is a beautiful landmark of Split. You can get lost within its walls and its narrow cobbled streets, the cul de sacs and its long corridors that you just follow without knowing where you are going to get to exactly. Today, the historic space is also full of quirky and cool shops and restaurants. Don’t think that it’s all modern, though. The planning was done so well that you notice a perfect balance between the old and the new, making the place rich for its history and interesting for the additions of modern life. On the night that I arrived, I went to the palace for a stroll and was drawn to a part of the building that was beautifully iluminated and where I could hear live music. There, sat by the rocks and steps of the old palace, a group of young people enjoyed the warm night and the music coming from one of the bars. I couldn’t help but join them. I noticed throughout my stay in Split that the local people really take advantage of the location and really appreciate the beauty of it.


Palácio de Deoclécio

The next day, when we were again walking around the palace (remember I said you can get lost in there? Exactly. One visit is not enough!), we stopped for a chat with the owner of the restaurant where we had had dinner the night before (a scrumptious sea food risotto, by the way). I asked him about the little dog that was always around the restaurant but that we had also seen around other places within the palace. He then told us that the dog was called Rocky but no one owned him, he belonged to everyone that worked in the palace and they all looked after him. Awww…


Rocky

On this second day, our mission was to find the beach, of course. On the way, we went past many groups of men, either sitting on the benches at the squares or just standing around. They were either playing dominos, cards or were just standing there, observing the passers-by. Some local people told us that there is a shortage of work, which explains the amount of men not doing a lot. They all seemed really friendly, though, and loyal friends to each other.

Everywhere you look in Croatia there is water. It’s just so beautiful. However, the Croatian’s concept of beach is a little different to the Brazilians’. This is possibly due to the fact that the shores are quite small, so our little dream of lying in the sun by the beach all day didn’t quite come to life. Having said that, the beaches are absolutely beautiful, with blue and green water, sunshine and happy people. The only pity was the water being so cold (this was end of April). So we learned the lesson that the best time to visit Croatia is in September, which is when all the tourists have gone away, but the climate is great and the water is still warm. Mental note for next time.


Groups of men: they are on every corner!


One of the beaches of Split

One night, we went for dinner at a restaurant called Fife, near the harbour, but also far enough to be a little hidden secret of the place. Many local people visit the restaurant and the food is just to die for! I had a pasticada, a typical Croatian dish made with beef and red wine sauce, served with gnocchi. Check out my ‘not-at-all-generous’ serving below (!) – I just couldn’t help it, it was sooo delicious! Fife is a restaurant I’d definitely recommend on a visit to Split. It has a very relaxed atmosphere, with its long tables that are usually shared by more than one group. The cook is obviously extremely skilled and the staff is helpful and patient – even when we asked them to explain almost every dish on the menu!


Pasticada – Yum!

On our last day, on a stroll by the Riva harbour, we met a local man that had two dogs. He told us that one of them was Italian and the other Croatian, but even so they got along really well, which is quite funny. He also explained that many Croatian people don’t have jobs and that in the calm months, the place can be quite empty. He also said that fishing is a big thing in Split, and this is obvious by the number of boats that can be seen everywhere. On this same day, we went past a groups of fishing men that seemed to be celebrating something at their HQ. They were drinking and singing with lots of energy. A few hours later, on our way back, we went past the same place and heard the same fishing men singing, but this time the words were slurred because of the alcohol. Funny and real.


Dogs – the Croatian and the Italian (left to right, don’t get confused!)


Sea, the beautiful sea…

Split is a place where you see families everywhere. If not complete families, pregnant women and their partners. I don’t think I have ever seen that many pregnant women in one place! Split has its own energy, people are very warm and they seem to live a colourful life. I would recommend Split to anyone that visits Croatia. It’s a place where you see life through rose-tinted glasses. And who doesn’t fancy a bit of that once in a while?

Categories: Croatia, Travel tips | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boom, boom, boom!

What is it about fireworks that make people just melt a bit? It’s so intense that we kind of go into a trance watching them. I absolutely love it. The London ones on New Year’s Eve were amazing, this time with music, which made them even better than usual. There is no better way to enter a brand new year. Boom, boom, boom, pow, pow, pow, here we go, into a brand new year with style!

Categories: London | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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