Brussels

I looked to the window next to me and saw a big, beautiful butt.

My first perception of Belgium was with a bit of culture shock. I arrived in Brussels at Gare de Nord (North train station) and stepped into a gray sky, looked to the window next to me and saw a big, beautiful butt. First I thought it was a mannequin, but IT MOVED! I wish I knew before going to Brussels that it has a red light district. I was standing in the middle of it! I’ve been to Amsterdam before, but I was well aware of the existence and location of the red light district. This time, it took me by surprise.

The second thing I noticed were the mothers and little girls begging for money to eat. They didn’t speak French, nor did it sound to me like Flemish (native tongue in parts of Belgium) so I suppose they were refugees. I, unfortunately, had not a dime of cash nor a bite of food with me since I had been traveling in Germany for about a week and I had recently lost my debit card, BUT that’s another story.

I was tired, sweaty, carrying my luggage and trying to find my hostel with a broken heart. I wish I had at least some snacks to give these people, but then again, that wouldn’t even be close to solving the problem. During my stay in Brussels, I met other immigrants who also arrived in Belgium as refugees and can now share success stories. That definitely changed my perspective of the city, as well as the beautiful Grand Place.

If you think that Grand Place is beautiful during the day, wait until you see the lights of the baroque building reflected into the dark-shiny floor at night, turning the Place into a beautiful dark sea of lights. Absolutely breath-taking.

Grand Place at night
Grand Place

Surrounding the Grand Place you have different little streets to choose your path from. They’re all crowded with souvenir and chocolate shops, as well as mediterranean restaurants, waffle and frites (aka french fries) stands, bars with a wide variety of Belgian beers, and of course, Le Boutique de TinTin. I’m a nerd for comics and I absolutely love TinTin, but no more than I adore his pup Milou, the true hero in the stories. The shop is more of a museum, unless you’re willing to spend about €70 in a figurine. I did get a €2 postcard as souvenir. Right across from this store, I found the most affordable chocolate and souvenir shop in the area, also, the one with the largest variety. It seemed like it was family owned, and at least during Spring Break, it was open until 11pm (23h).

Bruxelles, land of TinTin and Delirium beer.

If you’re a fan of beer, Delirium alley is a must! This alley hosts Delirium Cafe, Monasterium, Taphouse and even a Tequileria. People drink their beers in any of the bars or even in the alley on hot days (or nights). Delirium has a wide selection of beers from wheat, stouts, IPAs, sours and lambics. You also have a choice of size or beer flights if you want to taste a few. Remember, Belgian beers tend to be stronger so keep an eye on the alcohol % so they don’t sneak up on you. The bartenders are friendly and speak English so don’t be a afraid to ask for a taster before deciding on one.

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Just a few beer to choose from at Delirium Cafe


What to see
Something important to know is that Centraal Station is the closest to the city centre (closest to the Grand Place), you also have Midi and North station. Most trains stop at all 3 stations which are about a 20 minute walk from each other. If you’re coming from Charleroi (south airport), the first station is Midi, then Centraal, followed by the North station (opposite if you’re coming from the northern airport). The shuttle bus to the southern airport (Charleroi) departs from Midi Station.

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There are many famous monuments, parks and historical buildings to visit, such as the pissing boy statue known as Manneken Pis and the dog Zinneke Pis.
Just to mention a few more:
– The Atomium sculpture
– King’s Castle,
Royal Palace, not to be confused with Place Royale (the original Royal Palace)
– the still standing Notre-Dame church
– Brussels Park where I accidentally found a small free rave on Easter
Brussels is definitely one of those cities where no matter where you turn or which street you take, you’ll find something interesting.

TInTin Mural
If like me, you’re a fan of street art, you’ll find a beautiful mural by
Okudart right outside the North station. There are also many murals based on comics around Brussels. My favorite is, of course, the TinTin mural, shown here. You can also see the Smurf’s passage, leading to Centraal Station, as well as the Caroline Baldwin and the Broussaille mural.

A perfect way to end the day at Brussels is by enjoying the sunset and the live music performer at the steps in Mont des Arts (featured image on top). This is a very picturesque and romantic area with a beautiful sight in every corner. I was on my own (#foreveralone) but didn’t mind all the embracing couples around me because I was in love with moment and the colorful sky. I also had a delicious chocolate covered waffle to keep me company ❤

Where to eat
GofreYou’ll never taste french fries the same way, since you’ll soon realize they’re actually from Belgium and they’re called Frites! Waffles with maple syrup will no longer suffice either, it’s strawberries, chocolate and chantilly or dead!… ok, maybe I’m taking it a bit to the extreme but there’s a reason why Belgians take great pride in their food.
Frites and waffles are musts in Belgium. I also found mediterranean food to be very popular in Brussels. Here are a few inexpensive and delicious places with great customer service, as well as English speaking staff: L’Express (Lebanese), Hellas (Greek, cash only),  Mykonos (Greek) and Lotus Vert (Vietnamese) for colder days.

Here is the list of every place mentioned in this post for you to save in your Google maps. Don’t forget to download the Brussels map in Google maps so as to save data and time when roaming around Brussels. This city is a great place to just walk around and get lost, you’ll find wonderful things to see or places to eat and drink everywhere you go. I hope you make the best of your time in this amazing city and always, BE PRESENT.

 

Mallorca

Mallorca is a small and beautiful island in an archipelago in Spain called, Balearic Islands. The other Balearic islands are Ibiza, Menorca, Formentera and Cabrera.
What I found to be the most intriguing thing about Mallorca is that it’s a multi-lingual island.
muiltilingual.jpgDespite it being petite, the locals working in the tourist sector speak at least 3 languages, sometimes more! Some of the spoken languages are Spanish, English, German, French, Italian, and of course, Mallorquín. Yes, Mallorca has its own language, which I learned is a dialect deriving from Catalán, the language spoken in Cataluña (where Barcelona is).  Most street signs were written in all these languages. I was amazed by how many polyglots I met during my short stay in Mallorca. This is very uncommon for Spain, which makes this island stand out even more. As if the clear, blue mediterranean ocean wasn’t attractive enough, now you know you won’t have any issues with communication when traveling in this island.

Locals speak at least 3 languages,

sometimes more!

Where to eat
As expected in an island, seafood is fresh and everywhere. Markets are the best way to try local food in Spain. There’s a few markets where you can choose fresh fish and they’ll grill it right there and then. The most popular one is Mercat de Santa Catalina and it’s in Palma, near Plaza Mayor. It closes at 5pm everyday and it’s not open on holidays. Another market in my list, that I, unfortunately, did not have a chance to visit is Mercado Gastronómico de San Juan. It seemed like the perfect place to try different types of food.

In Sollér, I had a delicious and authentic meal with a breathtaking view of the mountains in a hidden alley. Service was outstanding  at Bar Molino but I arrived for a late lunch/early dinner and had no problem finding a table outside. It got busier in the evening, so best make a reservation, specially during peak season.

Cocktail bars & Nightlife
There’s plenty of cocktail bars to choose from in Palma. I had the chance to try a few, including Brassclub which had amazing cocktails and a very chill vibe. Havanna is also a cool cocktail bar in Palma. I specially loved the corky art in this bar but my favorite one is an Italian bar in Santa Catalina named Ventuno. I’m not a huge Aperol fan, I find it to be too bitter but Italians are such experts at mixing it that I absolutely loved the cocktails here. Food looked delicious as well but I did not try it. My only complain is that I wish there was a dance floor or at least more space. Music was too good not to move but there was hardly any space to even stand in this bar.

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Potato quality selfie @ Havanna

Sometimes, it’s best to go with the flow, you’ll be amazed by where the night takes you. I found myself dancing the night away at an Irish pub! Right around the corner of Ventuno you’ll find Molly Mallone. Definitely not the place where I expected to listen to Latino and 90’s music but if you rather not pay the cover for a club, know you can party it up here, at least on a weekend. From here, we walked to a club in the area but I cannot recall the name, it was that kind of night. Never be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and meet new people. I ended up singing my heart out to THE Spice Girls song with a Dominican friend I made that night and following an Italian group of friends to the next club. C’est la vie!

Catedral
Cathedral in Palma

Where to stay
If you want to be able to walk to the Historic Centre, then I recommend staying in Palma. There’s quite a few bars and restaurants in the area, the Cathedral and beach boardwalk are at walking distance. If you’re worried about staying in a loud neighborhood, Palma is actually pretty  calm and quiet at night. You’ll need to take a bus or taxi back if you party in Santa Catalina, unless you don’t mind the 30-40 minute walk back. Another downside is that if you’re looking to layout at a beach, you’ll need to rent a bike or take the bus since the nearest beach is a small boat port.

Another popular area in Mallorca is Portopí, it’s next to the port, so the beach is not as beautiful as other ones in Mallorca, but it’s surrounded by restaurants and night clubs if you’re planning on partying it up.

I wish I would’ve stayed at least one night in either Port Sollér or Porto Cristo. These beaches are unrealistically beautiful but both locations are far from the action. So it really does depend on what kind of vacation you’re looking for.

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Porto Cristo

Day trips
Sollér & Port Sóller are definitely worth the trip if you have at least one whole day to visit. The small and charming town of Sollér hosts the beautiful Església de Sant Bartomeu (Church of St. Bartomeu) designed by Joan Rubió, an Antoni Gaudí follower. Gaudí is best known for the Sagrada Familia, an enormously impressive church in Barçelona. I’ve become difficult to impress by churches in Europe, but the one in Sollér is so unique since it has Baroque, Gothic and even Modernist elements. An easy and scenic way to get there is the Palma-Sollér train which departs from the historic centre in Palma and arrives in the town of Sollér, next to the church.  You can find the timetable and prices here

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Mediterranean sea entering the Caves of Drach

Porto Cristo is a small yet beautiful beach next to the Caves of Drach. The Caves are a must see when in Mallorca, they were formed from the entrance of the Mediterranean ocean. Their discovery dates back to the Middle Ages but they have been conditioned with en easy entrance and exit, as well as lights and stairs for visitor access. The tour includes a live classical music concert, as well as a boat ride along lake Martel, which is inside the caves. I was at awe with the naturally made stalagmites (I believe they’re called) from hundreds, possibly thousands, of years of water dripping from and onto the rocks. These rocky spikes went in all directions causing a perfect reflection in the calm Martel lake. There’s a limited amount of tours available per day so make sure you plan ahead. You can arrive by bus, the cost from Palma as of 2019 was €8.65 one way. You can find the bus time table here. There’s also tours departing from Palma that include transportation, they range around €40.

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Boat ride in the Caves of Drach

Here’s the list of all the locations I mentioned in this post, along with some other restaurants that were referred to me but I did not get a chance to try.

I visited during March, and even though it was sunny it was also windy, so it wasn’t perfect beach weather. The humidity made it quite chilly at night. On the other hand, it wasn’t peak season so I was able to enjoy Mallorca without being overwhelmed by other tourists. Whenever you visit, even if things don’t go as planned (as they rarely do) remember to appreciate the breathtaking views, delicious food and friendly locals. Mallorca is a beautiful place and I’m sure you’ll agree, so always… BE PRESENT!

Oporto

Oporto, or Porto in English, has become increasingly more popular than Lisboa (Lisbon). It is one of my favorite cities in Portugal, perhaps even in Europe. You can easily see the main attractions in a weekend if you don’t mind the hills. I adore this city because of its friendly people, delicious food, breathtaking views and peculiar street art. There’s a certain charm in the neighborhoods, buildings and street art. It’s not as metropolitan as Lisbon, but the views from Dom Luís I Bridge are unreal.

Landmarks
As always, I recommend a walking tour. They’re between 2-3 hours long and they’re free! You can pay a tip at the end based on what you consider appropriate. Some of the most memorable landmarks are the Dom Luis I Bridge, Lello Library,  São Bento train station, and the fanciest McDonald’s you’ll ever see.
OvelloIf you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll have a familiar feeling when entering  Livreria Lello. It is said that J.K. Rowling was inspired by Oporto after living in the city back in the 1990’s. In the books, she describes the library, where Harry buys his books before attending Hogwart’s, as a place similar to this Lello.

Lello is a small library that charges €4  for entrance, which can be validated towards a purchase. There will most likely be a line of people waiting to get in, which moves kinda fast, but don’t expect to take any pics inside without people in the frame.

Something else you’ll see if you’re in Oporto during graduation season, is that the University’s graduates wear a very similar black cloak to the one Hogwart’s students wear. Another J.K Rowling inspiration.

 

 

São Bento train station is beautifully decorated with hand painted blue tiles. There are about 200,000 blue tiles dating back to the 1900’s. The art in the station tells the city’s story. I remember one of the walls being about a foreign princess who was arriving in Oporto to marry the king. The Portuguese covered the roads in rose petals so the princess wouldn’t realize that the streets were actually covered in horse shit. And if you look at the images carefully you’ll notice small mistakes such as the foot of a horse pointing backwards. These elements make this art even more unique and prove that it was all hand painted.

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São Bento Train Station


Around the corner from São Bento, you’ll see the fanciest Mc Donald’s ever. This building used to be the Imperial Café in the 1930’s. It was restored by the city but no local business owner could afford it. Oporto’s administration agreed to sell the building to the well known fast food franchise under the condition of maintaining the building as is. The food and prices are the same, with a few Portuguese pastries included. If you’re into beautiful cafes, don’t skip a visit to Majestic Café or Café Guarany, both really close by and also totally worth a visit.


Food

An important dish from Oporto is the Francesinha, a calofrancesinharie overload type of sandwich layered with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça (smoke-cured pork sausage seasoned with garlic and paprika), fresh sausage like chipolata (thin and short sausage), steak or roast meat, and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce similar, in consistency, to gravy. It is typically served with french fries and a fried egg on top. The flavor of the sauce varied since every restaurant had its own recipe. An affordable restaurant near the river and the Dom Luís Bridge is Restaurante Verso Em Pedra. Expect huge portions. Big enough to share one Francesinha between two people since it’s such a rich dish.

Another typical Portuguese dish is the Bifana, basically a pork sandwich. The pork steak is seasoned and marinated for sometime, making it a bit spicy. The bread is a simple white bread roll, that ends up being moistened with the pork steak sauce. Apparently, the south of Portugal has a different recipe, where the pork is less spicy and tastes more like mustard. I personally detest mustard but love spicy food, so the version I tried in Oporto was not only delicious, but the meat was oh so tender and the bread was so soft and freshly made. It paired great with a Super Bock, a great Portuguese beer. Pictures don’t do this sandwich justice, so I suggest you try it before judging it by its basic appearance. A great place to try out this simple yet very tasty sandwich is Casa GuedesCafe Piolho also serves this delicious sandwich and other typical Portuguese dishes like the green vegetable soup served as a popular side dish.

“I found this hilarious and so typical of Portuguese people
wanting to offer you the best, always.”

Portugal, in general, is also famous for its fresh seafood. Codfish (Bacalao) is the fish of the region and quite affordable. I had it mediterranean style (grilled) quite a few times and even had a waiter tell me once “I’m sorry but our fish is not too fresh today.” So I asked “Why? How old is it?” and his answer was “It was caught yesterday.” I found this hilarious and so typical of Portuguese people wanting to offer you the best, always.

Nightlife
Drinking in public is permitted in Portugal. Locals start and end the night by drinking next to the fountain with the two lions, Fonte dos Leões. You’ll find plenty of bars near this fountain. I recommend starting the night at Porto Tónico. I am not a fan of the Porto wine, since I find it to be too sweet for my taste, but Porto Tonics are delicious! They’re so refreshing, just the right amount of sweet and something you won’t find anywhere else. If you prefer craft beers, you’ll find a great place a 5 minute walk away called Catraio. On a sunny day, I recommend you enjoy a cocktail at the garden in Base Porto.
If you feel like dancing, I had a lot of fun at Plan B Club. When I went, they played electronic and Latin music. Even if you don’t enjoy dancing, you’ll be entertained by the laser show displaying several images, a very unique touch in my opinion. Although, a bit busier, I also had a lot of fun at The Wall. None of these clubs charged a cover and their mixed crowd, locals and tourists, made for a very interesting and fun night where I got to dance with people from different parts of the world.

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View from Gaia

Wine tasting in Gaia
Across the Duoro River you’ll find Gaia. You must hike up the Miradouro da Serra do Pilar. This is one of the best view points where you can appreciate the bridge and all of Oporto. When you cross the Dom Luis I Bridge, be mindful of the fact that you’re sharing the “road” with the tramway. Tourists stop anywhere along the bridge to take pictures without realizing how narrow the pedestrian path actually is once the train passes by.

Gaia,  is known for its vineyards and wineries along the river. As I mentioned, I personally do not enjoy Porto wine. I realized this after a 3 hour long wine tasting tour in Gaia but I truly enjoyed visiting the wineries. They’re all so different, some have terraces next to the river and one even had a rooftop bar and Virtual Reality set where you could “fly” above Oporto. Some of the most famous are SandemanCalemOffley, among others.

No matter what time of the year you visit, I have no doubt you’ll enjoy your time in Porto since it’s such a beautiful city with so much to offer. Even if the rain is pouring down, there are plenty of cozy cafés and restaurants to enjoy the local delicacies. Have fun and remember to always BE PRESENT.

 

 

 

 

Day Trips from Dublin

If you’re spending time in Dublin, please check out my post on my quick trip to this amazing city.

There are a few options of day trips from Dublin, but the most popular ones are The Cliffs of Moher and the Game of Thrones shooting locations. The roads in Ireland are narrow, windy and foggy so renting a car is not recommendable unless you are accustomed to driving in these conditions. There are plenty of companies offering bus tours that include a brief visit to small towns along the way.  The prices range from €40-60.  Below is the research I did before going to the Moher Cliffs.

Get Your Guide Viator Finn McCool
– Moher Cliffs – Moher Cliffs
– Kilmacduagh Monastery
– Doolin Village
– Wild Atlantic Way
– The Burren
– Galway City – Galway City
– Galway
12 hours, 50 EUR
14 hours, 40 EUR
45 EUR

The differences between tours are minimal. I opted for the Viator tour, which turned out to be the same as Finn McCool since our buses had the Finn McCool logo on them, and the itinerary was the same as their website.

What you need to know:
No matter when you go, take a wind breaker or a raincoat. Umbrellas are practically useless against the strong winds nears the cliffs and beaches. If you go in the winter, there are not enough layers to keep you warm. Make sure you carry a beanie, gloves and boots. Your tennis shoes/sneakers/trainers, or whatever you want to call them, will get wet. Your chances of slipping in rocks or along the cliffs are larger with shoes that have no grip on the sole. Now, onto to the fun part…

monastery
The first stop was a quick one at the Kilmacduagh Monastery. An impressive and small cemetery next to the road towards The Burren. I personally enjoy visiting old cemeteries, especially medieval looking ones. This place is eerie and wonderful at the same time. It has a small church made out of stone. We were here for 15-20 minutes since the weather was bad. Strong winds and rain. You read about the monastery’s story here: http://monastic.ie/history/kilmacduagh/

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Fighting against the wind from the Cliffs of Moher

About 4 hours from departure, we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher. The bus was already shaking from the strong December wind. We waited out the rain and wind inside the museum where you can take a green screen picture “in front” of the cliffs. Pretty useful since we didn’t get to spend much time outside admiring the cliffs. When we finally stepped out of the building and head towards the cliffs, I truly feared for my life. At first it seemed like a nice challenge to venture against the wind, but there were times when I thought that I would fly away. The wind pushed back even the strongest person. Imagine a 5 foot (1.5 meters) woman, fighting against mother nature for the sake of an adventure. The rain slapped your face repeatedly, still, we laughed at this situation and were grateful for a clear day. I was warned on the the biggest risk of visiting the cliffs… the fog which can impede you from seeing anything at all on certain days. So, I’ll take strong winds over fog since admiring those 300-million year old cliffs was more than words can describe.
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Three strong Latina warriors against that Irish wind

On our way to Galway City, we stopped by The Burren where the sun graced us with it’s presence. This beautiful place is a region in the southwest of Ireland known for the view below, a beach paved by limestone dating back to the ice age. Mind you step when walking in this bedrock of cracked limestone.
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The Burren

Not far from The Burren you can visit either Doolin Village or Galway City. I wish I would’ve chosen the tour stopping by Doolin Village since it’s known for its folklore and cute pubs. Galway is also charming small town but with more city vibes. For example, the mall. We spent most of out time in there due to the weather but there’s a small Christmas market, if you go in December. We explored it within 30 minutes or less. Here, I finally got to taste some authentic Irish coffee!
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The Christmas Market at Galway

No matter where you go, no matter the weather… remember to enjoy every sip of that Irish coffee (or Guinness), remember to take a deep breathe of that fresh Irish air and remember to enjoy every moment of your trip. It’s your time to make the most out of this adventure that you’ve decided to embark on. Always, be present.
irish coffee

Dublin at Christmas time

I somehow convinced my friends to join me on a trip to Ireland in December. I had a long weekend and the flight from Madrid was short and affordable. I’m not sure if my Mexican/Californian blood is getting used to real winters or I overly prepared with a coat that barely allows for movement, but the cold Irish winter seemed bearable. Going to the Cliffs of Moher, of course, was a different story.  I will share my notes on this weekend getaway so you can take advantage of your time there.

To and from the airport
The airport is not too far from the city. The Airlink express (747) bus leaves every 15 minutes from the airport and will take you 30 minutes to arrive at the Gardiner Street stop, where most hostels and B&B’s are. This bus costs €7 for a single trip or €12 for a roundtrip. The last one departs from the airport at 12:30am (00.30).
Bus number 41 and 16 lead to O’Connell Street, which is near Dublin One Mall,  good centric point of reference. These buses cost €3.30 for a single journey and the driver accepts exact change only. Another option is the Aircoach, which runs 24 hours a day. It costs €8 for a single journey.
A taxi would cost €25 roughly to the city center. Lynk is a popular company and their phone number is 00 353 14600000. Uber is not commonly used, therefore, there aren’t many drivers out there.
All information and timetables can be found on each company’s website.

Landmarks
As always, I recommend a walking tour. This time I chose the popular SANDEMANs. They have free tours departing at 10am, 11am or 2pm (14:00) from Barnardo Square in front of City Hall. Check their website for updated times and departing locations.
Dublin is very walkable but be prepared for rain and wind, especially during the winter.

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Dublin Castle
Dating from 1204 it has 2 small museums and gardens. One of the gardens is small, cute and patio-like located on the rooftop. Perfect place to chill over the summer. Inside the castle, you can also find the Chester Beatty Library with cushions to seat and relax. I went here to warm up and rest after the walking tour.

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Temple Bar
Temple Bar, is not only a famous bar among tourists, it is also a popular neighborhood along the river. Its cobble stone streets give Dublin such an old timey and distinctive vibe along with the crowded pubs hosting live music.

Trinity College
Trinity College
This beautiful college is located in the center of Dublin, surrounded by many shops and restaurants. It’s a notorious tourist destination because of its library holding the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin dating back to the 9th century. I personally opted for not visiting the library despite hearing good things since I only had one day to explore the city. Another reason being that I’m on a budget and the €14 (€11 for students) entrance fee was not feasible. You can still appreciate the beauty of the campus for free.

Where to eat and drink
You’ll find delicious food in any pub. An important thing to remember though is that kitchens close at 9pm (21:00). Pints range from €5-7 depending on the beer and most pubs have a good selection of draught beers.

Cornucopia is famous amongst locals for its big portions of delicious and healthy food. You choose from several mouthwatering vegetarian and vegan dishes. The restaurant is large and homey. It has several dining areas and is decorated as if you’re having lunch or dinner at a relative’s home. Definitely my favorite place for food in Dublin.
Bunsen simple menu, good burgers.
There are many kebab places in Dublin, but Zaytoon is the most popular one. It’s not the cheapest option, but it has the freshest ingredients. They even have a salmon kebab! There’s a branch in Temple Bar.
For dessert, Murphy’s  is a must try while in Dublin. This ice cream parlor is known for its extravagant flavors, such as salt, gin, brown bread, etc.

Pubs
Porterhouse ended up being my go to pub. It’s a 3 story pub with a good selection of home brewed craft beers, good service, decent prices and great live music. It’s right around the corner of City Hall, also near Temple Bar.
The Brazen Head claims to be the oldest pub in Ireland, dating back 1198. I only drank a pint of Guinness but the food looked amazing. A reservation is recommended for dinner time. Although it was not my favorite pub, I did enjoy relaxing by the fireplace. There’s live music every night at 9:30pm (21:30).


The Wild Duck an expensive but gorgeous pub in Temple Bar. It’s quite big so you have a bigger chance of finding a seat. As in any pub, the decorations are plenty and random, but I liked the art in the Wild Duck the best. I was especially attracted to the entrance which was filled with lights during Christmas. It made it hard to miss despite it being located in a small alley.
Mulligan’s is an 18th century riverside pub frequented by an older crowd of locals, hence a chiller vibe. The decorations are simple, unlike the bars on Temple Bar but without lacking a good selection of draught beers.
McNeill’s is also frequented by locals since it has the cheapest pints (€4), but keep in mind they only accept cash. There’s live music on Thursdays at 9:30pm (21:30).
Copper Face Jacks was recommended by a local as THE club to dance in Dublin. Also serving lunch.

Museums are free!
All of the national museums are free! These are the National Gallery (next to Trinity College), the Irish Whiskey Museum, the Archeological Museum, which is next to the National Library, and the Collin Barracks Museum, exhibiting military uniforms and replicas of weapons.

In general, Dublin is an expensive city, but it has so much to offer in return. In other countries, you normally pay a cover at a bar if there’s a local band playing while running the risk of them not being any good. In Dublin, there’s no such risk. Not only are the shows free, but the musicians are also talented, at least, in my experience. I really loved the random decor in most pubs, the variety in beer, the amazing food and portions, as well as the friendliness of the local islanders.

Athens

Transport
Athens is pretty walkable, but if you get tired of walking, the metro costs 
€1.4 for 90 minutes. It’s fast and easy to use.  The airport fee is €10 and it takes about an hour to get there from the city center. A taxi or ride share is worth if you’re traveling with others.

Landmarks
Akropolis
The Akropolis is free for students!!! so don’t forget your student ID if you have it. Otherwise, I believe it goes up to €30
Wear shoes with good track soles since you’ll be walking on marble, which is extra slippery, especially after the rain.

cave
The Panathenaic Stadium is the original Olympic Stadium located at Leof. Vasileos Konstantinou, Athina 116 35, Greece.
The entrance is
 €2.5, including an audioguide device. The tour can be done quite quickly and the stadium has a very interesting story. Apparently, single women used to light a fire in the cave, from where the athletes would enter the stadium, and dance naked around for the gods to provide them with a good husband. Older women would keep an eye for peeping toms.
Inside the stadium, you’ll find posters from every country’s Olympic tournaments. It’s so interesting to see each country’s take on this ancient Greek tournament.

Cable car
It’s 
€5 to go up and €7.5 roundtrip. I was tired after a few days of walking so I took the cable car up and walked down. The trek is beautiful but the path is steep. Bring appropriate footwear.

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You must try the “grilled halloumi cheese”. It’s even more delicious with the berry sauce on top. You can eat it with pita bread. Greece is also known for its Falafels and for the Freddo Cappuccino. If you don’t consume dairy, you can ask for a Freddo Coffee. It’s been such a struggle finding iced coffee in Europe. Everywhere I go they serve you a hot espresso along with a cup of ice unless I go to Starbucks or McDonald’s. Iced coffee in Greece is drunk more than anything else. Even in bars, most people were drinking coffee instead of beers.
If you’re looking for a homey legit Greek meal, go to 
Aspro Alogo. I loved this place so much, I ended up going two days in a row. It’s a family-owned restaurant with the friendliest environment. The food is not only delicious but the portions are also big and the owners seemed legitimately happy to see you. You will be greeted with the warmest and biggest smile as well as treated as if you were family popping in for a visit. It’s also near old town Athens. The address is Apollonos, Athina 105 57, Greece.
Another small restaurant I recommend is Kalamaki Bar. This place is a cute café near the Akropolis. This is where I first tried the grilled halloumi cheese and immediately fell in love. It’s also not far from the Akropolis. The address is Athina 117 42, Greece.

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Street Art

My second favorite reason for traveling, after food of course, is Street art. I personally believe this type of art says a lot about a city’s population, issues, and culture in general. Exarcheia is an amazing neighborhood filled with impressive murals and colorful cafes. I wasn’t able to check it out at night, but I was told it becomes lively with local people.

Athens can be enjoyed in 3 days. There are many flights and boats departing for the islands from Athens. I was at Mykonos and it was very beautiful and relaxing. The perfect resting vacation before the adventures in Athens.

I want to share that during this trip I…
– got sick
– had an allergic reaction to food
– got a few bruises, scrapes and bug bites
– broke my phone and
– ripped my shoes in a thunderstorm
Traveling is never easy but nothing worthwhile is. You learn the most about yourself, especially when in a new country with a completely different culture and language.
You have to always remember that everything is temporary, grudges are a waste of time, wear good traction shoes when walking on marble and Greek yogurt with honey is delicious! 💙🇬🇷

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Zaragoza & Las Fiestas del Pilar

Spain has many festivities throughout the year. A good way to celebrate the beginning of Autumn is by visiting Zaragoza in Aragón during Las Fiestas de la Virgen del Pilar in mid-October. Zaragoza is a gorgeous small town between Madrid and Barcelona.  It’s possible to see it in a day or you could also stay the weekend. Beware, that’s “puente” weekend, meaning that it’s a long weekend, so travel and lodging prices might be higher than usual.

Below are only a few of the many places to visit in Zaragoza:

basilicaBasílica del Pilar
Stunning Renaissance Basilique. It holds Goya paintings and concerts inside. Check the schedule here. The best views are from the bridges. There’s also a path along the river where you can appreciate the reflection of the Basilique almost geometrically aligned with the actual Basilique.

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  • Puente de Santiago & Puente de Piedra
    Both these bridges offer amazing views of the Basílica del Pilar
  • Plaza del Pilar
    Both bridges lead to La Plaza del Pilar where most of Las fiestas happen. The parade ends here since the Basilique is in the Plaza.
  • The parade
    If you go during the festivities you’ll be able to see the Reinassance outfits of the local families marching from Plaza España to the Basilique where they offer flowers to La Virgen del Pilar.
  • Plaza España
    It feels like every city in Spain has a Plaza España, including Mexico, but they vary so much in size and aspect. You’ll find many shops and restaurants here.

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  • Museo del Teatro de Cesaragusta
    Ruins from the theater during the Roman Empire. It’s fun walking around it and pretending you’re in the middle of the ring with a crowd surrounding you. The museum is free during the festivities. You can check out prices and hours on their website.

  • Palacio Aljafería
    A UNESCO World Heritage-11th century palace with Moorish influences. As of October 2018 prices are 1 EUR for student and 5 EUR General Admission. Consult prices and schedules on their website.
  • Food truck garden
    Along the main road that goes from Plaza del Pilar to the Palacio de Aljafería, we found a food truck garden. It had craft beers brewed by Ambar. As well as trucks with food from all over the world. This area was not as busy as the city center so it was easier to find seats and relax.
  • El Tubo Quarter (Tapas District)
    Narrow pedestrian road with many local bars and restaurants. Most bars have affordable drinks and gorgeous gardens. It leads to Plaza España.

Zaragoza has many other museums including the Archeological & Fine Arts Museum and the Goya Museum. It also has lively and friendly locals who pour out of the many cafes and bars. It is a small city but with plenty to do over a weekend. My favorite moment in Zaragoza was admiring the Basilique from the path along the river. I can’t decide if it was more beautiful during the day or at night. I’ll let you be the judge. Enjoy your time in this magical town and remember to enjoy yourself even when trying to get through a crowd or parade in a narrow-cobblestone road. Remember you’re looking at everything for the first time. BE PRESENT!