S. João – Porto

Today is one of those days I wish I could just hop on a plane and fly back to Porto.

Why? It’s St. John’s day (S. João). It always takes place on the 23rd of June and goes more or less like this: you gather some friends and make a sardine barbecue. Yep, you’re right. You boil some potates, roast some green peppers, make a salad and finish it off with broa – typical brown bread in Portugal. You open a few beers. Have one too many. Around 11 you make your way to the city centre and walk over to the D. Luiz bridge – designed by Eiffel (yes, the same that built the Eiffel Tower) and watch the brilliant firework that happens at midnight. After that just pick up your plastic noisy hammer and just start hitting people. Sounds weird? It does. But it’s SO much fun! Then you buy Super Bock – Porto’s beer at every corner and just enjoy your night while dancing to popular portuguese tunes or jumping over the fires – yes there are fires! There are concerts all over the city and it’s not a good night if you don’t end up having breakfast at 9 am in the beach after watching the sun come up.

Really, even older people are on the streets. You’re likely to spot your own parents dancing merrily around the city. To be honest is one of my favourite nights. It has been held in Porto for over six centuries- yes you’ve read correctly – because it used to be a celebration for the summer solstice.

If you ever go to Portugal, try to fit this night through your passage in Porto. Have a look at the video so you can have an idea (and then go crazy on youtube S João videos)

S João by the river - Porto

Claudia

Oporto

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Over the last few years my birthplace, Porto, has won a lot of ‘best european destination’ or ‘best city break’.

Obviously, I shouldn’t be giving any opinions over it but truly, it is one of those cities that offers something to everyone.

This year, in Lonely Planet’s Top European Travel Destinations, Porto holds the first place.

Here’s what they wrote about it:

“Once a sleepy riverside city best known for its fortified wines, Porto has emerged as a vibrant arts capital that’s rightfully getting a lot of buzz as a great value destination. At the vanguard of the city’s bohemian art scene is the gallery-lined Rua Miguel Bombarda – liveliest during Simultaneous Openings when new exhibitions and streetside concerts create a festive ambiance. Big museums such as the Museu de Arte Contemporânea in Parque de Serralves host cutting-edge exhibitions. Meanwhile, Rem Koolhaas’ wildly designed and hugely popular Casa da Música keeps the music going at year-round performances, including free outdoor concerts in the summer. Celebrated new restaurants have also tapped into the city’s creative new outlook. Rui Paula’s DOP showcases Portuguese ingredients with a contemporary twist. Historic port wine lodges provide tours and tastings for free or a nominal fee. Beyond Porto lies the Douro Valley, a picturesque region of steep terraced hillsides covered in some of Portugal’s most celebrated vineyards, with river cruises and scenic train rides for day-trippers.”

Having grown up there I have seen Porto as a deserted city, as a lot of people would be living outside the city centre and just go to work there. There was no night life. It was actually dangerous to walk to certain places at night. Suddenly, the city started to wake up and we had not only the Port wine, but we had life! We had artists in the streets, little markets popping up, rehabilitation of many of the buildings, bars, clubs, students in the streets!

It was like all this culture emerged. And the centre was lively again. Not only pretty and full of people on national hollidays or S. João ( celebrated on the 23rd of June. People of all ages spend the night on the cities streets just drinking and eating and watching fireworks. Tradition does not let you get home before 9AM!!!).

I am actually very proud and so, but so happy. I was a guide there as well as a hostel worker. The best thing I could see were my tourists falling in love with this city which they had no expectations or did not know anything about. Porto is not just the wine and the pretty colorful houses by the river. Porto is it’s people. And it’s beautiful.

Read more about the article here: www.lonelyplanet.com/europe/travel-tips-and-articles/77757

Claudia

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Who else is excited about this?

Claudia

Music Festivals in UK

festivals uk2013 will be the first year, since I was 18, that I won’t be setting foot in a Music Festival. Now, that just feels wrong. Specially because I’m the friend that always says: uh! I’ve seen that band live!

Besides travelling that’s really where I spend all my money. I don’t go just to one. Usually I try to go to two or three. Granted, I used to do it in Portugal, where a 3-day ticket with camping would match up with a one-day-festival here in UK.

Still, it’s sad. The first time I went, was a 3 day event by the beach in Lisbon. I watched Pearl Jam, White Stripes and Smashing Pumpkins as headlines – not bad for first time, huh?

Since then, every summer – even the ones spent in England – I pack and take a break for my music alcohol indulged retreat. It’s like when people go to spa’s or shopping; I go to dust covered places with fantastic views of the sea or mountains and lakes and just enjoy.

So, you can see how this year, being stuck at work, with this cloudy weather is making me blue.

But enough about that. I just want to give you a heads up for the main music festival events in the UK in case you are a lucky person with time and money to go.

In June, if you fancy some Sigur Ross and the XX’s, you can always pack your bag for a few days and go close to Cornwall to the Eden Sessions. This Festival is actually set in a park and it is all eco-friendly with some debate sessions going on about global warming and actions to promote awareness regarding the environment. It happens from the 29th June to the 14th July. Thumbs up! Read more about it on: www.edenproject.com/sessions/

The Isle of Wight is one those festivals that, to be honest, I didn’t know about before I moved to the UK. Mea culpa, I know. But again – I grew up hearing about Glastonbury and reading and Coachella and also, if I can, I would like to play the I’m-not-from-here card. Anyway, this festival has actually been a great surprise. First of: imagine the scenery!!! Second of all: have you heard the line-up? Stone roses, The Killers, Block Party, The Maccabees…. Plus, have you seen their website? It’s all funky and they have this submarine with the countdown for the days! Sadly for me, it’s starting this 13th of June and goes on during the weekend. What are you doing this weekend? www.isleofwightfestival.com

Overlaping the Isle of Wight is the famous Download Festival. Starts this Friday and finishes on Sunday. This is one of those even I heard back in my little corner of Europe. For rock lovers it has always been a pit stop. This year you get to enjoy  Iron Maiden, Queens Of The Stone Age, Motorhead, Alice In Chains, Mastodon, Rammstein, Slipknot, Bullet For My Valentine and more. I was just checking their website and even that is badass: www.downloadfestival.co.uk . Uh, I can just feel myself finishing off my ponytail with some headbanging – and I can do it without spilling the beer!

For a quieter and more Indie-Folk vibe, you have the Bushmills Live. It’s in Belfats and actually you don’t buy the tickets – say whaaaat? – Yep! Actually, you just enter a competition on Facebook and hope to get in. This event happens on the 19th and 20th of June at the Bushmills Distillery and I can’t even imagine a festival in a place like this, sponsored by whiskey and full of indie banjo music. Were I a whiskey drinker, this would be my kind of place. This years line up counts with Of Monsters and Men, Jake Bugg, Sons And Lovers, Foy Vance, Iain Archer, Willy Mason, Bear’s Den. It’s a bit hipster – even I don’t know some of the bands – but I’d still love to go. Read here on how to get in – be aware, you will need to prove you are off age just to get in the website – www.bushmills.com/BMBushmillsLive.html

Glastonbury – I get shivers just by writing. It’s on my bucket list – Glastonbury and Coachella. At least I’m already living in the country for this one. That’s a step, right? This year the line up doesn’t disapoint – does it ever? I dont even know how I’d be able to see half the bands I like! There are so many stages, and artists and I like all of it. (If someone really rich or kind would like to make me happy – please send me a ticket!). I feel sad thinking about what I’ll miss. Ok Claudia, breathe. This year you get to see bands like:  Arctic Monkeys, The Rolling Stones, Mumford And Sons, Vampire Weekend, Elvis Costello, Portishead, The XX, Foals, Cat Power, Phoenix, Alt-J, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and so many more…. I think I’m going to take a minute and make a cup of tea so I don’t loose my mind and buy a ticket on an impulse. Feel free to have a look at the line up here: www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk . A friend of mine, once told me: it’s not just the concerts…. it’s the atmosphere. You just have to go there. And I will. One day.

Next, and now with a warmer heart  the Hard Rock Calling. The good thing about it is: I work in Mayfair, which is just a step from Hyde Park, which is where this Festival is on. Last year, or two years ago, I don’t quite remember, I was sitting under a tree listening to The Killers in the background. Not as good as being there, but good enough for me. This year I’ll have to travel to the former Olympic Park. Oh well. The head liners this year are: Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band, Kasabian, Paul Weller, Alabama Shakes, Miles Kane, Kodaline, The Cribs, Klaxons and many more. For more information: www.hardrockcalling.co.uk

In a months time, from the 12th to the 14th of July, Wireless Festival will be on. It has a more of a r&b / pop vibe. It will also be in the Olympic Park – in the Hockey stadium to be exact. I remember being in my teens and my friends talking about it. If you are in the mood for some Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Frank Ocean, Trey Songz, Emile Sandé, Calvin Harris, Rita Ora and Kendrick Lamar, this is your stop. www.wirelessfestival.co.uk

T in The Park is Scotlands biggets outdoors festival and it’s turning 20! Almost as old as me hey? To celebrate it they are mixing up a little bit expanding a little more from rock to pop. The big headliners this year are (I just felt like the Eurovision presenter giving out points!): Mumford & Sons, Rihanna, The Killers, Stereophonics, Calvin Harris, Kraftwerk, David Guetta. Emeli Sande, Dizzee Rascal, Foals, Alt-J, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and more. I want to go to Scotland right now! It’s on from July 11th to July 14th. www.tinthepark.com/home.aspx

2000 Trees is probably the smallest festival out there. And yes, I’m counting the ones back in Portugal. It doesn’t finish as late as well – so if you have to travel home there is always transportation. The capacity of the venue is 4,500 so I guess it’s like a row of concerts in open air. There are concert venues that can accommodate more people, no? But then again, that’s what makes it so special isn’t it? More relaxed, you get to mingle, drink, talk, see some good concerts, head back home on the train from Gloucestershire…. And Mystery jets will be there too! Actually, I might be sounding a little mean but the line up is really good! there are 4 stages and 90 bands. 90!Frank Turner, Mystery Jets, King Charles, Stornoway, Funeral For A Friend, We Are The Ocean, Nine Black Alps just to name a few. Take a look: www.twothousandtreesfestival.co.uk

I didn’t know, due to it’s success, but the Latitude Festival is quite recent. It all started in 2006 – it’s as old as my festival history ah! – in Suffolk. I remember last year Bon Iver was performing and I really wanted to be there – got to see him later on in Wembley though. This year you’ll get to see all your artists from July 18th to July 21st.  Apparently the forest plays a big part as the scenery is enchanting and they actually have performing arts all around the festival site. The line up this year counts with: Foals, Bloc Party, Maccabees, Hot Chip, Cat Power, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Local Natives, Yo La Tengo, Jessie Ware, James Blake, Grizzly Bear, Rudimental, Stornoway, Modest Mouse, Alt-J, Beach House and more.( I really want to see Modest Mouse!). Check all about it on www.latitudefestival.com

Around that time, here in London (July 19 to 21) we get to enjoy a more pop vibe with Lovebox. It’s a three-day festival at London’s Victoria Park and you can expect good shows from Plan B, Goldfrapp, Azealia Banks, Jurassic 5, Flying Lotus, Hurts, Rudimental, Paul Kalkbrenner and many more.www.lovebox.net

In Cambridge – yes you guessed it – is the Cambridge Folk Festival. It is the biggest UK folk festival and it happens next month on the 25th until the 28th July. This year you’ll get to enjoy The Mavericks, The Waterboys, Bellowhead, Levellers, Amadou And Miriam,The Staves, The Rambling Boys Of Pleasure, KT Tunstall just to name a few. It is also a bit hippier (does this word exist?) and a laid back ambiance. http://www.cambridgefolkfestival.co.uk

From July 25th to July 27th the Secret Garden Party in Cambridgeshire will certainly make us fall in love with Regina Spektor, James Lavelle, Rodigan, The Strypes, Willy Mason, Big Youth, Wolf Alice, Django Django and more. It is described as bohemian, chic and hip. They have arts and crafts, theatre and performing arts. I expect The Great Gatsby this year will give it a boost! www.secretgardenparty.com/#!/home – even the website is cool!

Moving on to August we have the BoomTown Fair. Now, in Portugal we have Europes biggest ska/hippie festival. People from Germany travel all the way to enjoy our countryside, drugs (ups) and good vibe! This festival is called Boom. From what I’ve read this is a similar event. There seems to be a lot of reggae, ska and rave vibe to it. In the line up you will find Foreign Beggars, Lee Scratch Perry, Digital Mystikz, Gentleman’s Dub Club, Toots and the Maytals, Ozomatli, Mad Caddies, Mungo’s Hi Fi, Calyx & Teebee, Reso and more. www.boomtownfair.co.uk

The Wilderness festival has always captivated me. They have Shakespearean theatre and loads of art workshops and I just really like the sound of it. Plus, the line ups are always really good. Here what you’ll get to see this year: Empire Of The Sun, Noah And The Whale, Rodriguez, Michael Kiwanuka, Matt Corby, Tom Odell and many more. The event takes place in August from the 9th to the 11thwww.wildernessfestival.com

Now, a festival right up my alley – Set in Brecon Beacons (weherever that is) which is apparently it is one of the best settings for a festival we have the eco friendly, artistical and laid back Green Man. I did not know about it until a short while ago but I loved everything I’ve heard about it. Look at this line up! Kings Of Convenience, Band Of Horses, Ben Howard, Local Natives,  Veronica Falls, James Yorkston, Ólöf Arnalds and many more. Ah! I’ve looked it up and it is in Wales. Here is the website: www.greenman.net

Closer to me, in Essex is the V Festival. It aims to gather the biggest amount of people and they certainly have the names for it: Beyoncé, Kings of Leon, Stereophonics, The Script, Emeli Sandé, Calvin Harris, Beady Eye, Jessie J, Two Door Cinema Club, The Vaccines, Basement Jaxx, Olly Murs, Paloma Faith, James, Rita Ora, The Courteeners, Jason Mraz, Fun, Labrinth, Ellie Goulding, Travis, Kendrick lamar, Of Monsters And Men, Maverick Sabre, DJ Fresh, Jessie Ware, Maximo Park and plenty more. V puts together a brilliant show, gathering names from pop and rock. See more at www.vfestival.com

More to the rock side of life is Reading Festival and Leeds Festival. No artsy cratsy things in there. Good music, good crowds and, hopefully, good weather! , Alt-J, Phoenix, Green Day, Eminem, Biffy Clyro, System of a Down, Chase and Status, Nine Inch Nails, Deftones, Foals and Fall Out Boy are some of the artists you can watch in there. For more info and tickets: www.readingfestival.com and www.leedsfestival.com

If you are one to appreciate a little more DJ-ing than bands, then Creamfields is for you. The Prodigy, Avicii, Tiësto, David Guetta, Groove Armada, Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso, Above & Beyond, Paul Van Dyk, Eric Prydz, Knife Party are just some of the names but man… Groove Armada and The Prodigy in one venue: WOW! Read more about it here: www.creamfields.com

End of the Road is another relaxed, eco-friendly and well structured festival. It also benefits of an incredible line up of folk indie music that I love so much. Set in the Larmer Tree Gardens the line up is composed of Sigur Rós, Belle And Sebastian, David Byrne & St Vincent, Frightened Rabbit, Warpaint, Dinosaur Jr, Eels, Efterklang, Poliça, Daughter,Savages and I can go on but really, it’s just not good for the heart anymore. Can someone just take me there already? Here’s the website where you can buy our tickets: www.endoftheroadfestival.com

In the Woods is another Festival that has been driving me crazy: one – I had never heard about it this year. Two: the line up won’t be disclosed up until the event. Neither is the location. Whatever you read they say: just outside London. Where??? And who?? Past performances have names like Alt-J and Calvin Harris, so we know it will be good. I just want to know HOW good. The setting on the website is beautiful but tells me nothing. Grr. Here you go, find things out and let me now eheh www.inthewoodsfestival.co.uk

Turns up I write a lot. Just not frequently. Sorry. Feel free to buy me some tickets. If you’re going I wish you an awesome festival, sing, drink, dance and have fun for me!

Claudia

Coming up in London: Greenwich and Docklands International Festival 2013

as-the-world-tipped-by-wired-aerial-photo-bysophie-laslett_005crop-700x4662England is definetly better in the Summer.

From music festivals, to flower shows to street entertainment, it has a lot to offer.

This year, very close to me – as I live in London – is the  Greenwich and Docklands International Festival. First of all it is free. Second, it is a festival dedicated to the performing arts (from theatre to music to street art and performances). It lasts 9 days and this year there will over 150 performances. It will be in Greenwich in various sites.

This year it will try to recapture the Olympics spirits and many performances are directed by Bradley Hemmings who was a co-artistic director of the Paralympic Opening Ceremony.

The Festival started in 2003 and it has been growing significantly.

You can check the Programme Listing and more informations here: http://www.festival.org/

I, for one am very excited and will definetly ask for some days off to go out in the sun and enjoy.

So: from the 21st June to the 29th, if you are wondering what to do, or you decide to come to one more visit to London but don’t want to do all the famous sites one more time…. you should take a break, go visit Greenwich and it’s parks and stop by and admire.

Claudia

Krakow

Auschwitz

Auschwitz

I am in love with Krakow. While I was living in Poland I went there two or three times. All of them were amazing. Yes, alcohol helps, but the city itself is gorgeous. All it’s little pubs and the Jewish town… Just incredible.This time we actually went on a tour. Mind us, we were tired and I’ve never had a guide while I was there. It was one of these free walking tours where you basically tip the person.

The good thing about them is that the guides are usually young and eager to makes us be in awe. He certainly did that.

As most of polish towns, there is the market place, which is the city centre that has basically all that’s in the map ‘not to miss’. But all around there is so much more.

The tour we did was centered in the jewish part of the city. I have learnt alot! Because one thing is reading and just getting lost in the city – which I got to admit I love – but it’s always good to hear the history of it.

Did you know that there are only 200 jews currently living in the city? And that only two sinagogues are in use in all the district? I didn’t. Also, before the WWII there were more jews living in Krakow than in Jerusalem.

Anyway, if you ever go to Kazimierz – The jewish district – check the Isaaks Sinagogue, everyday at 6pm they have concerts. They aren’t usually for free, but we were lucky enough to find kind people at the door that let us in for free and it was surreal. There weren’t a lot of people, but they were clapping, the music was beautifully uplifting and it just made me smile and be happy.

Also, very close, there is this bar called Singer, which is dedicated to the factory workers and the tables have proper sewing machines in it. There is a bar basically just around the corner called Alchemia where in order for you to go from one room to another, you have to go through wardrobes, which is quite fun for people who grow up reading Narnia.

We went to the ‘Ghetto’ that before the war did not have the onotation, people would just call ghetto to places where jews would live and it used to be good, the bad conotation just appeared when the nazi party stripped them from their houses and shoved them in this quartier in inhuman conditions, which later was baptized ‘the ghetto’ hence the significance we give it today.

We have also visited Auschwitz. I’ve been there twice, but there is always this huge knot in the stomach.

I reccommend Krakow to everyone. It is beautiful, has history. You have te Vawel castle to visit. The Comunist district, the jewish district, Schindlers factory, all the main square where the town hall is and the renaissance market. There are plenty of parks around and even a iron dragon that spits fire every ten minutes or so, just by the river where you cans ee the sun sets and the lights twinkling in the river. Just… wow.

Auschwitz

Auschwitz

IMG_20130530_125733

Auschwitz

Auschwitz

Passage

Passage

Vawell Castle

Vawell Castle

St Mary's church

St Mary’s church

Lenin

Lenin

Claudia