TRAVELS

My travels have always been an inspiration. Here are my impressions of the places that I visited.

2019 | Norway: Oslo
Oslo is not magnificent, but it is charming and it has character. For those who do not know much about Norwegian culture there are many museums and monuments that are very informative and interesting. Oslo is also home of the Nobel Peace Prize – the Nobel Peace Centre is situated near the main harbour in what was once a train station. There are many activities to choose from like going on a boat trip through the fiord, visiting the Holmenkollen Ski Museum & Tower, and walking through the Vigeland Sculpture Park. Trying a meal with reindeer meat, halibut, or whale meat is a unique experience. For coffee lovers: wonderful coffee everywhere.

2015 | UK: Bath and Stratford-upon-Avon
Bath is a nice old city. Old is a key word to describe it. You have its famous Roman Baths (yes, from the time of the Roman Empire), the Sally Lunn Bun (buns are a wonderful piece of bakery), which exists since 1482, and a very interesting guided tour to an 18th century house, where you can learn how people used to live back then. Before leaving the city, I had the opportunity to have a delightful afternoon tea with cucumber sandwiches – very British indeed. Stratford-upon-Avon is the birthplace of William Shakespeare and nowadays Shakespeare is all over the place. I visited his family house where there were actors playing pieces of his plays in the garden and entertaining the visitors. It is a very picturesque little village.

2014 | Germany: Berlin
Berlin is a city under construction. It was almost entirely destroyed during the World War II and then occupied by the winning troops. Officially, these troops only left Berlin in 1994 during the reunification process of Germany. This heavy past is strongly present everywhere and you can feel the city is going through a healing process. So, going to Berlin is an inevitable historical visit. Information and reminders about what happened in Berlin during that dark period are abundantly. But you also have more joyful activities like walking through the Unter den Linden boulevard, visiting the Museum Island, and going to the Charlottenburg Palace.

2011 | UK: London, Cambridge, and Oxford
During the year I lived in London, I took the opportunity to get to know the city more deeply and its most famous surroundings. Getting to know London as a dweller is completely different from seeing the city as a tourist because you go to places where only Londoners go. My favourite places are the Bankside (where the Tate Gallery and the Globe are situated), Greenwich (where the Old Royal College and the Royal Observatory are located), and Paddington (with its beautiful train station and the its amazing canals). Good places to go for a walk are Regents Park (a gorgeous park), Temple (the district of lawyers), Mayfair (where you can see what luxury truly means), and Canary Wharf (which seems a setting for a scientific fiction film). Cambridge and Oxford are clearly university cities. It is wonderful to walk by the river and pass through those old and magnificent buildings, which are surrounded by green mini fields. A great and lovely surprise was Hampton Court Palace, an amazing royal palace – you can take a train in Waterloo Station and get there in 40 minutes. I also greatly enjoyed the guided tour to Buckingham Palace as well as attending a musical at West End (The Lion King – absolutely marvellous) and a Shakespeare play at the Globe (really unmissable). One of the great things about living in London is getting to know people from all over the world. I became friends of a Taiwanese lady, who was training on the art of Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony. Her school held a very special event at the time and she invited me to go and participate in one of those ceremonies. It was undoubtedly a precious experience.

2010 | UK: England’s South Coast
Before moving to London, I spent some time in the South of England. I visited Portsmouth and Southampton, which are two famous port cities (Titanic departed from Southampton on 10 April 1912). That identity is clearly embedded in all buildings. On the other hand, Brighton is a sea resort and its buildings are clearly different, more joyful instead of industrial. Moving away from the coast, I visited the amazing Arundel Castle and the Jane Austen house in Chawton, which made me feel like I was in one of Jane Austen’s books.

2010 | Mexico: Riviera Maya
For once I tried the beach resort life: eight hours per day lying in the sand (or better yet on the lounge beach chair under the straw sun umbrella) with warm sea water and all-you-can-eat food and drink… It is good for people who want to disconnect from the world.

2007 | Czech Republic: Prague
Prague is a lovely and colourful city that is exactly like the photos. You can feel culture is embedded in the city and you can find art galleries everywhere. The very famous main square has a unique and enigmatic astronomical clock and it is limited by colourful and cheerful buildings.

2007 | Denmark: Copenhagen
Copenhagen is a delightful city with charming palaces. One of the best known places is Nyhavn, which was a harbour in the 17th-century, but has been turned into a beautiful and colourful restaurant zone. The little mermaid is not very far and it is surprisingly tiny. I also had the opportunity to visit the castle that inspired the Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet”, the Kronborg Castle. It is not magnificent but it has its charm.

2006 | Spain: Madrid
I stayed for only two days in Madrid, so there was a lot I missed. Madrid is composed of majestic buildings that remind us of the Spanish Empire. There are lovely gardens where is very enjoyable to take a walk. Going to Museo Reina Sofía to see the original Guernica painting by Picasso is a must: the size of it is impressive (it occupies an entire wall) and the content is even more impactful than just seeing the copies.

2006 | Malta (Valletta) and Macau – China
Valletta is a city where buildings seem to merge with the landscape and uncover their military history. As for Macau, although it was a Portuguese colony for 442 years, it is quite difficult to recognise such an influence. Chinese culture has almost completely engulfed Portuguese culture. You need to know where the buildings belonging to the old Portuguese colony are, otherwise you will never find them.

2005 | The Netherlands (Amsterdam) and Belgium (Bruges)
Amsterdam seems more like a big village rather than a city, the capital of a country no less. It is very peaceful, maybe because there are more bicycles than cars. Although it is necessary to constantly pay attention to bicycles (they are everywhere and next to you when you least expect it), walking around the city is very nice and there are lots of interesting museums to see. A tour through the nearby countryside to see the dams is definitely worthwhile. Bruges is a unique and magical city: it transports us to another period of time or to a fairy tale story. Belgium chocolates are everywhere and are a delight everyone should try.

2004 | Road Trip – Spain: Galicia
A road trip has the same major advantage as an Interrail (flexibility), but the disadvantage of having to find where to park the car. On the other hand, you are not limited to places with train stations… Perfect to visit by car, Galicia is a fantastic region, especially for people who love the sea: the coast is full of fantastic Rías. Worthwhile is also Cape Finisterre, once believed to be where the world ended. Santiago de Compostela, the final goal of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, has a glorious cathedral that does not disappoint those who arrive there. It was also interesting to discover how Galician language is so close to Portuguese language.

2003 | UK: London
My first visit to London was in 2003, when I visited it as a tourist and saw some of the most famous sites. As they are situated relatively close to each other, it is possible to walk from one place to another. However, if it is too much, you can always take the tube (that is, the metropolitan). What impressed me the most was how different and unique the London boroughs are and how much cosmopolitan the city is. It really seems the whole world is there. A final note: on the way to Heathrow airport I had the opportunity to visit the cockpit of the plane – it is truly an amazing perspective.

2002 | Road Trip – Andorra and Spain (Catalonia, Valencian Community, Region of Murcia, Andalusia)
Andorra is a country that lives for the snow, so summer is just a waiting period. On the other hand, the Pyrenees are charming no matter the season. Barcelona is a beach city with a unique identity. The constructions by Gaudí are very impressive, especially the Gaudí Park and the Sagrada Familia. From there until Gibraltar, the Spanish east coast is full of beach and port cities, which do not seem to have much history. Gibraltar is a very peculiar place because it seems British, but in an odd way. Interesting to note that people speak Spanish and English as native languages so they often change from one language to another when talking to each other. In Andalusia we can see how much the Muslims influenced it, especially when you visit the fabulous Alhambra in Granada, which is an amazing city.

2001 | Bus Tour – The Alps
Bus tours are good because you have a guide that tells you about history and the meanings behind the monuments, but you are limited to what the guide thinks is interesting. Besides, people are always running from one place to another, so you do not have the opportunity to feel the soul of the place. Visiting the main cities and snow resorts of the Alps during the summer is strange, you always feel like something is missing. However, it does not take away its beauty. In Switzerland, we went to Basel, Lucerne and Zurich, which are really lovely places. Then, we pass through Liechtenstein (the bus did not even stopped) to reach Austria. The landscape is truly majestic. Innsbruck is a town literally surrounded by mountains whose top is always covered by snow. Gräz is a wonderful surprised and Salzburg is a very picturesque town. Vienna is full of imposing buildings that remind us of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. We still had time to go to Munich to have a traditional German meal and to see the beautiful Lake Misurina in Italy.

2000 | Road Trip – France: Loire Valley
The Loire Valley is famous for its amazing castles, some of them were the inspiration for the Disney castles. Yes, it is like visiting fairy land. On the way to the Valley, I had the opportunity to visit the Limoges and the Orleans cathedrals: they are, for different reasons, the most fascinating cathedrals I have ever seen. I also went further north, to the coast, just to see Mont Saint-Michel, which it is also worth visiting, even from afar (the traffic to get to the island can be discouraging). And wherever you go, you always eat marvellously in France.

2000 | Brazil: Pernambuco
In 2000, Portugal celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Brazil Discovery. The Instituto Português da Juventude (a governmental institution for youth) organised a trip for 500 young people to go to Pernambuco. I was one of them. I visited Recife, Olinda and, of course, the beaches. The contrast between the people who had money (and could go to the best restaurants, for example, where there was always too much food on the plate) and the people who didn’t (there were lots of children around the resort who were clearly starving) was shocking. The buildings from the Portuguese Discoveries Era were poorly preserved, which was very sad to see. However, I found very interesting the changeover of an old prison into a craftwork centre. Riding the beaches on buggies and venturing through the jungle on a jeep (yes, on the top of the jeep) was amazing (at some point we stopped to bath under a waterfall – a truly unique experience). Almost at the end of the trip, some of us decided to go to a local restaurant to eat “feijoada brasileira” – one of the best I ever eaten.

1999 | Hungary: Budapest
Budapest seems to be part of an entire different Europe if we compare it with Western Europe. This city is in fact the merge of two cities, Buda and Pest, which are at each side of the Danube River. The best known building is the magnificent Parliament. Booking a guided tour is definitely worthwhile. Magnificent is also the Buda Castle that is situated on top of a hill. When walking around the city, you can always find something different no matter how many times you go through the same places. Yes, I tried the famous goulash and it is wonderful.

1999 | Road Trip – Spain: Castile and León, Asturias, Cantabria, Basque Country, Navarre, and Castile – La Mancha
North of Spain is quite different from Central and South of Spain. Personally, I think it is much more beautiful. The Spanish autonomous communities are very different between themselves, but the Basque Country is truly like you are in a different country with a distinctive culture and a language that is no way similar to Spanish (you cannot understand a word of it). Besides the breathtakingly scenery, visiting Guernica is a highlight: it seems a town like all the others, but then you find a beautiful monument for commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Guernica bombing and you have a kind of shock. Other cities that got my eye were Gijón in Asturias, Santander in Cantabria, Pamplona in Navarre, and Toledo in Castile – La Mancha. Also, Picos de Europa is an absolutely astonishing place. On a final note, it was during this trip that I got to know the marvellous “pimientos rellenos”.

1997 | Interrail – France and Italy
The great advantage of Interrail is its flexibility: you can go everywhere you want with just one train ticket, no need for much planning. You can even use the same ticket to go from your accommodation to the city centre and back again, for example. My trip started in South of France visiting Nice and the Principality of Monaco, both very posh places. Then, crossing the border to Italy (to San Remo), I travelled along the coast through Cinque Terre, visiting its picturesque and charming villages, until I reached Florence. Florence is a romantic city that seems to have remained in the Medieval Era. You almost expect to see a Medici family member around the corner. Before proceeding further south, I took a day to visit Pisa and its famous inclined tower and discovered that there is also a beautiful cathedral and a delightful market. Then I headed to Rome (and Vatican City): a monumental and archaeological city where life seems very enjoyable. I took a day to go to Pompeii: it is remarkable to see how well preserved it is a big Roman city, which was so suddenly engulfed by lava. Next stop was San Marino, which basically is a fortified hill: I went up and then I went down. On my way to Venice, I had dinner in Bologna: one of the best Spaghetti Bolognese I ever eaten. Venice is a very beautiful city with a main huge square and a lot of palaces. It looks you are transported to the Renaissance Era. After a very briefly visit to Milan (and its magnificent cathedral), I crossed the border to Switzerland to see how Lugano looked like: a beautiful town by a lovely lake. I ended the trip with a visit to Paris, a city full of history that provides pleasant walks.

1990 | Ireland: Dublin and Limerick
Ireland is a beautiful green and lovely country full of very nice and warm people. Limerick is a village on the west coast of Ireland. Its ancient buildings can give you an idea how it was living in a little countryside town centuries ago, but at the same time how it is to live there nowadays. Dublin is a unique capital that truly reflects the Irish soul. You definitely can see what James Joyce was conveying in his writings.