The Douro Valley and its Harvest

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If you are planning to go to Portugal, this is the perfect season to hop on a cruise and let them take you all the way through the Douro Valley. Established as World Heitage by Unesco, the Douro Valley is not only known by wine lovers because of Port and it’s table wines but also because of it’s landscapes.

Long and steep slopes carved by man throughout the centuries have turned the hills of the Douro River into something out of a fairy tale. There are two seasons in which it is trylly beautiful: Summer, for its shades of green contrasting with the blue skies and reflecting on the peaceful waters and in Autumn. To be honest, I prefer the latter. First of all, the hills are covered in orange, yellows and reds because of the vines. Also, you can actually go and help with the harvest.

Most of the beautiful manor houses have been turned into luxury B&B’s  -especially through annexes, as the houses are still lived in by the original families who built them 400 or 500 years ago – and little Boutique hotels. This, and the famous Port wine, has launched the Douro Valley into one of the many luxury destinations in the world. There is also a cruise that goes up until Spain and takes 8 days. It should cost you as much as a 10 day cruise in the Caribbean, so you can only imagine the standards.

‘The Douro is a land of tradition, with a culture that is organically bound to its history, religion, agriculture and to the simplicity of its people.

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It is also in this region that Port is produced. You can still visit the cellars in Porto and taste it. But the Douro is also the birthplace of many fine table wines which are now being empowered and more and more famous around the world.

So, if you decide to come to Porto, please take a day tour. You can buy a one day tour which will take you by boat up to the Douro Valley – passing through the damms which is a wicked experience too! – and return by train, whose line goes just by the water and gives you a staggering view to the hills and river. Or you can do it the other way around (which in my opinion is better because you have the sun setting when you get into town and the train is all warm and cosy in the morning). You can also not come back and spend the night, or just drive there. There is no motor way, so you have the zig-zag centuries old roads all along the river.

Claudia

Travelers Heart

The other day I found an article that states the signs which show that you are a traveler at heart.

Here they are, see if you can see yourself 🙂

You never have any money in your bank account, because as soon as you save, you’re off on your next trip. – So true. My bank account is always lingering on double digits because everytime I have some, I buy a plane or train ticket.

Airports are your favorite place to be, because it means you’re going somewhere. – Ehh, not really. But i did became very familiar with them. Catching a plane is not a hassle anymore. It has become easy and simple and gives me free time for books at the duty free.

You have at least one map hanging up in your house somewhere (if not many more). – I have a whole wall covered with maps of places I have been to!

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You’ve had your travel outfit down pat for a long time. – Hum, I always tend to take the same hoodie and scarf everywhere I go. Never thought about that before.

You’re “Steve” in this picture, and these other guys are the people who exist to make your life a living hell at airport security. – AHAHAHAHAH!

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Your backpack is well worn. – Mine used to be a beautiful cloudy blue…. now it’s just…. drawings and dirt and…. life!

Your phone is packed with every travel app you could possibly need. – At least I feel like I use it apps for good and not just to kill time with Candy Crush like everyone, I think that is a bit of superiority complex, but it’s my only one, I promise.

You’re no stranger to sleeping in a train station. – Train station, bus station, airport….

You’re a fan of small souvenirs you can keep with you. – I have trained my mom to never expect nothing more than magnets as her gift. Her fridge is kind of packed now. I’m so proud of it!

You d have a box filled with currency from around the world. – True, true.

You desperately want a vintage suitcase, despite knowing how impractical they are. – Can I buy one and use it as decoration?

Your bucket list never seems to get shorter, because there’s always something new to add. – It’s because everytime you go somewhere you hear about something new!!!

The journal you kept while traveling is sacred to you. – My most prized one is a red bound one. It even has some attempts of drawings.

You love being immersed in a sea of different languages. – there is something really fun about not understanding a word of what people are saying.

You know how to say “where is the bathroom” in pretty much every language. – maybe not with all the words….

And lastly, watching this video actually kills you because you’re not out doing the same thing.

True that.

Claudia

Danny Elfman’s Music From the Films of Tim Burton

I can´t believe I was not able to get tickets for this. It was presented last year through an email from Royal Albert Hall, but between remembering and going online to buy it, it got sold out – not a newsflash for London events.

Hope you people got a chance to go. If so, I am hoping it was as brilliant as I was expecting it to be.Danny-Elfman-l

From your (slightly jealous) friend

Claudia

Cirque Éloize

The perks of working in Hotels is that your Concierge Team can sometimes get you free tickets. This time it was to Cirque Éloize. The show is only here for three weeks and is already sold out.
Here’s a sneak peak of the night I had yesterday. If they ever go to where you live, please, try and go see. It is incredible. All the contemporary dance mixed with modern and hip hop, trobe lights and contorcionism…. made my night!

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Claudia

Amsterdam

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Last week I have visited the city where I would probably manage to get lost more times should I ever live there. First of all, and funnily enough, it is not that big. I know there are four main canals and smaller ones. I know the city is in a U shape. I inow the canals do not run though the city but embrace and encircle it. But between trying not to get run over by crazy cyclists and focusing in a main course without getting sidetracked by pretty small little streets… it gets very tough! Also, it does not help that I am not a very check the map every five seconds kind of girl. I like to get a sense of the direction I need to go and then just kind of end up there (does this make sense or are the space happy cakes still taking over my mind?). Not this time. I have definetly looked at the map more than normal – maybe I am loosing my touch?IMG_20130926_002748[1]IMG_20130925_142559[1]

Anyway, the good thing is: it is a beautiful city to get lost in. From the canals, to the houses springing in all directions, some of them tilting to the side or front – or wherever they have space, really -, the little squares, the cute fleamarkets, the landmarks or ancient history, the whole vibe you have while you are in it. I never had the need to hop on a tram to travel. You can walk pretty much everywhere.

Always undergoing construction work – due to it’s localization – Amsterdam is always trying to improve itself while keeping its habitants and culture legacy alive. Obviously, their main concern is flooding as the city rests in a swamp, basically. Being close to the sea, it was the perfect sight for the dockalnds to exapand and bring all the commerce routes to through Amsterdam. Hence its richness in the old days and it’s importance today because they are still in use now. everything uesd to stop by the city and Amsterdam has certainly grown since the expansion period.

It also housed one of my favourite paintors: Van Gogh (by the way – if you are expecting to see Starry Night, it is on display at the Museum of Modern art in New York. Yep). The Van Gogh Museum is now displaying Van Gogh at Work, which follows the paintors learning process and studies. Better yet, you are able to snap pictures of most of the paintings – usually prohibited in art galleries and museums.

It has the Rijksmuseum, which has one of the vastest collection of art, in which you can find works of Rembrandt and Vermeer. It has just reopened after a 10 year renovation work. It originally openned in 1885 and it has a beautiful collection of 17th-century furniture and intricate silver and porcelain, incredible early 18th century doll-houses.

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Even with all these artists and influences, the most famous resident of Amsterdam was Anne Frank. Nowadays, you can visit the annexe she lived in for two years and see a display of her diaries and notebookes. The house has been emptied of all furniture but you can see modules of how it would have been. recently they have oppened a new wing which explores her time in the concentration camp and has a little room which I found quite brilliant. It is basically a voting pole, consisting of yes or no questions. It gives you a view of peoples mind and thoughts about racism and such. Everyone should spend at least 15-30 minutes there.

Close to Anne Frank’s House is the Jordaan district. Because of how Amsterdam has grown in the 1700s, you can still find boat houses. You will see them mostly at quarters like the Pijp and the Jordaan, which are there since the 19th century and they look amazing. you will see the canals lined with boat houses and people having glasses of wine in their roof terraces.IMG_20130926_171904[1]

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On the north-east side of the city, you will find one of the three preserved windmills in Amsterdam – and for me, the only one as I haven’t seen any other one. The De Gooyer is located quite far away from all the touristic sites and it is probably the farther we have walked. Being far did not stop us to go there. Twice!!! Right next to it there is a beer brewery – Brouwerij ‘T IJ. All of their beer is organic and it is delicious. They have the Columbus, which is their most famous one with an alcohol percentage of 9%. Oh yes. After two, three beers, I was talking politics! we have tried some of them and unfortunately I cannot recall the name of the last one, which, coincidentally was my favourite. Nazeh or something? If some beer experts or someone knows, would you please tell me? In my defense, Columbus was the easiest name on the list to remember.

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As for the Red Light District… we actually hear so much about it and its explicity… well… I found it smaller and low key. I was expecting a lot of red neon lights, loud music, something BAM! But it’s actually calmer and toned down. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it. I guess I was just expecting a bigger and bolder den of iniquity. But then again, I guess that goes along with the city tolerance and environment. It is the same with the coffeeshops. They are there but they are not in your face. I figure it is the same with the red light district. You can see the girls on the windows but they dont actually bother you. Go Amsterdam for tolerance and open minds!IMG_20130926_003118[1]

As for the rest, we have visited all the main sites, the Bloenmarkt  (which I was later used as a reference point for me and my friend), the Dam Square flanked by the royal palace, Vondelpark, Ledsplein – where we actually stayed -, we have even done the Heineken Experience, Sex Museum, the Centraal station, Nemo, passed over the Maritime Museum… But Amsterdam for me is walking around and falling in love with the little houses, tilting and the flowers and the canals.

I loved it. I might move there, once I stop being scared of getting run over by a bicycle.

Claudia

Catchup

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Wow, it’s been some time. But I went on holidays, and you know how those times creep upon us and leave us without a sense of time or responsability.

Nevertheless, a lot of things happened while I was out and about.

First of all, and probably the most substancial: I got promoted. Yes. Two years and some in this rainy country, things are finally starting to look up. Suddenly I get the feeling that I’m not just here just because I made a choice to try and make my life better because that’s what you are supposed to do but because I am actually working for a career and a future. Which is weird, because the further I get here – careerwise – the farther I get from home. Funny how the most important things tend to split your heart. But, then again, mind over matter, right? Yeah.

Nevertheless, I feel mostly proud. Came here with nothing to my name except support from my friends and family. Three days to find a job to get me going and pay my rent. Two weeks and I signed my first housing contract, opened my first bank account (no parents signing and talking for me), enrolled in a GP (even though I’ve only been there twice). Three months in got a new job in the area I wanted. A year later moved to higher category and standard job where I was promoted twice in a year and a half. And today, I’m here, in this house I rent with friends, still no money or big pocessions to my name but with a sense of realisation. The biggest I have ever had since I moved here. And that makes me happy.

Two years ago I made a life changing decision, like so many others. I am so thankfull I never got settled in a job I didn’t want just because it was too troublesome to work for a better and more rewarding position. I’ve worked very hard. At a point I had two jobs and a part time just to be able to pay my rent and for transportation. But now, it was worth it and necessary. And I am happy I made through that struggle. People tend to assume it is easy with whichever job you first get here. It isn’t. It never pays enough – minimum wage is not enough. Your friends are having a pint in their usual bar while you are doing an extra shift just to cover your food expenses. It’s lonely. And that is even worst than not having money (with that, I’ve worked hard and have been very lucky for small favours and little miracles). So, so lonely at first. Obviously it got better. It still is. I am certainly no example for anyone, but if you’re thinking about taking the leap… well, if I have done it – and by all means, I unfortunately do not have the genes to have it easier – everyone can do it. Just hang in there. It gets better. It ís worth all the struggle after some time if you really try and put your mind to it.

Suddenly this got to be a lecture when I was just intending to say: Yay! I got promoted! Yay, I went on holiday! Yay, I’ve been to Amsterdam!

Well, there you go. Rant for the day.

Hope you are all well and winning your battles.

Claudia