Roadtrip Portugal – bohemians go #realvanlife
Lisboa –> Ericeira –> Óbidos –> Nazaré –> Tocha –> Porto –> Odeceixe –> Lagos
After intense working months I was just looking for some rest in a country I was already familiar with but which had enough hidden gems I could still discover – so it’s no wonder I chose Portugal again for a three weeks lasting time out.
The plan was to start with some luxury to smoothly slip into holiday mode before going back to basics, driving around the country in an old VW T3 van – no destination – just let the wheels carry you by intuition. Our trip should end with another two nights in Lisboa to close the loop.
My home in Lisbon
(Calçada do Monte, 48, Lissabon, +351 919 090 595)
Situated in the Alfama neighbourhood in a modern concrete townhouse with no sign indicating what a treasure you’ll find behind the walls, my home in Lisbon is what the name says – a home away from home but just so much better: quiet, stunning view of the castle, perfectly white linen, rain shower, mid-century interior and a little park directly at your door step.
Maria, the owner, warmly welcomed us when we arrived at 8.30 a.m., exhausted by the early bird flight and she did what I haven’t experienced in a hotel ever: she said “you must be hungry. Sit out on the terrace we will serve you breakfast and after that you can have a rest in your room”. The start of my never ending big love for this place!
Enjoyed strolling around all my favourite places .
Maria’s place is only a ten minutes walk to the big fleamarket (Feira da Ladra) at Campo de Santa Clara on Saturday!
Market at Centro Cultural de Belém (CCB) (every first Sunday of the month)
Delicous cheeses, fruit and bread. I also bought some sea salt sprinkled with herbs to use for cooking on our road trip to come.
For relaxing visit the Botanical Garden and eat a small picnic with the little treasures you bought at the market while observing the peacocks.
We went there on bikes along the coast. Renting bicycles in Lisbon is really expensive and Lisbon is not a city suitable for a bicycle (very narrow and steep streets and dense traffic, hardly any bicycle paths except of some kilometres along the coast) but for us it was still more enjoyable than taking the tram to Belém.
+351 Store & Atelier (Rua Poiais de S. Bento Nº18, 1200-348 Lisboa; Monday to Saturdays: 10am to 19pm; +351 218 015 984)
Buy a timeless classic t-shirt or sweatshirt with a little something by this local fashion designer
Upcoming neighbourhood just a few minutes of the center: BEATO
Directly at the harbour area this is where artists live as the rents are still moderate.
On our way back from the coast we searched for a little refuge away from the crowds and found this inspiring place via Airbnb in Lisbon’s neighbourhood Beato. It was also perfect for parking our van before it getting picked up by flynsurf.
If you can’t walk take one of the many Uber cars – they are so comfortable and you can have a nice chat with a local. Now I know that Portugal is also a good place to buy a Landrover defender for much less money than in Germany – a vehicle I am dreaming of for a while now…
–> picking up our van
Finding the right vehicle for the right price in high season was a mission in the preparation for the trip: what I didn’t want was a van printed with advertisement of the car rental company all over. Being the romantic type of person who idealizes spending time in nature and away from the big bad city I wanted a van as authentic as possible to start real van life: No hotel room on four wheels but instead back to basic to become one with nature whatever this is gonna be. I know this sounds pretty contradicting when looking at the place we stayed in Lisboa but hey I wanted to prove to myself that I do not need all those amenities to be happy and I wanted to dive into a totally different life for a limited amount of time where you are put back to your basic needs.
The “Economist” by Fly and Surf was the winner of my research: 1.500 Euro for three weeks including surfboards (deposit 500 EUR cash). Jackpot!
Martin and Lucas from Fly and Surf let us soak in the laid back and slowed down way of life immediately and gave us really good advice for free parking at the most picuruesesque places overnight around Ericeira.
Instead of choosing the option to get the van delivered in Lisboa for an extra 35 Euro we took the public bus from Campo Grande to Ericeira. Well, it was a good bye bye exercise from the materialistic bohemian lifestyle we heavily enjoyed at my home in Lisboa. To spoil you – on our way back we chose the option to get the van picked up at our airbnb in Lisbon…
The “Economist” – our home for the next weeks was: a VW T3 van with 329.000 km on the odometer. The temptation to use the toll roads was quickly over with when we realized that our old lady had maximum speed of 80 km/hour (downhill). Who wants to drive 300 km in 2,5 hours anyhow when you can have them in six? Now I know what #slowtravel means…We passed every little town on our way north. Isn’t this what a real roadtrip is gonna be? Driving is not a means of transportation any longer but the main attraction of the day. On our way we once in a while stopped for picking some fresh oranges from the orange trees on the side of the road to freshly squeeze juice with our bare hands for breakfast the next morning. So tasty!
What else had our “Economist” to offer? Well, may I present our camp kitchen: 2 plastic plates, two spoons/forks/knives, one pot, one pan, an ancient one flame camp bistro stove operated by gas bottles that you find at every Decathlon (attention: there is only one in the algarve in Pedrogão). Well you couldn’t make the supperclub style dinner as I imagined, I could but as our van immediately exploded with boxes and bags full of groceries around us when we started cooking, I soon learned that you also have to get the basic stuff done first before thinking of preparing more extravagant food.
A worthwhile stop on the way between Ericeira and Nazré is Óbidos – a little town surrounded with a wall that you can climb and just go for a walk on around town observing life from above.
If you want to avoid the crowds head directly to the North Beach. We grabbed our cooking equipment and the first thing we did after reaching the beach was to prepare our first hot vanlife meal – pasta with pesto. The waves where hollow breaking directly at the beach but if you made it through the first line it was a really good surf.
Buying the catch of the day directly from the fisherman’s boat on the beach – Tocha is famous for its refurbished fisherman’s houses on stilts, it was the only place along the coast where this was possible, like it was in the old days.
(Av. 25 de Abril, 4300-201 Porto, Portugal; every Saturday)
Very authentic flea market that attracts locals and visitors alike every Saturday: From old boat engines that are tested by the potential new owners surround by other shoppers to doll arms, coffee bean grinders and tiles everything that can be carried under your arm is for sale.
Tv. de Cedofeita 28, 4050-157 Porto, Portugal, +351 938 111 152
My favourite shop in Portugal ever since I found it two years ago. It’s the perfect mixture of vintage stuff, local craftsmanship and designers in a well curated setting sprinkled with personal style. If I would have my own little shop it would look very similar to this one.
Villa Nova de Gaia (GPS: 41.071067,-8.655837) south of Porto
(Next Intermarché supermarket open from 8.30 -21.00 with toilets was only a ten minutes drive away; GPS: 41.076481,-8.601554)
A city is a city and thus we did not want to sleep in our van on a random side street in town but by the sea. Luckily we had an app downloaded that showed us all free overnight parking places. The one we chose was just a few kilometres down south at the beach of Villa Nova de Gaia. Well, I still felt strange when we parked our car after sunset in the middle of a neighbourhood as I still wasn’t used to park just somewhere on the street and go to sleep. But the next morning was just perfect. We parked behind the dunes and in only two minutes we could have our hot chai tea and oats with fresh fruits and yoghurt on the beach by ourselves – energy we needed for the visit to the fleamarket.
Home turf and still big love
My favourite spot for surfing at the West Algarve is Odeceixce. The best waves are at low tide, the longer rides but more paddling are at high tide. I prefer the access via the nudist beach and walk at the perfect spot on the left end of the beach on low tide. At high tide the best spot is to enter via the river mouth on the right end of the beach.
8670-325 Odeceixe, Portugal; 9.00 am-21.00 pm
Whether it is for a juicy cheese burger, an Alentejo plate full of regional flavours such as sweet potato, cheeses, octopus salad and sausages or for a gin tonic sundowner, Agapito is my choice. You can’t miss it on the left side above the beach.
If you want to stay directly at Odeceixce beach over night, Nelson, the owner of Agapito also rents out holiday homes with a rooftop terrace.
(Herdade do Serrão, 8670-121 Aljezur, Portugal, +351 282 990 220)
The campsite lies between Rogil and Aljezur, about a 15 min drive with the car from Odeceixe Beach. Amoreira Beach is only 2 km from the camping ground. It’s also a good surf spot although it can get pretty crowded with beginner surfers. But for sunset it’s pretty nice as well.
Some kind of (Portuguese) nature
Our nature escape in Portugal: Bubulcus and Bolotas Camping
Travelling Wes Anderson style: Nature camping with our equipment packed in an old Remowa aluminum suitcase. I guess they don’t know: But those wheels work perfectly off road.
Glamour Camping for me: Enjoying amazing light at sunset and sunrise, sleeping in our tentsile, getting the feeling of remoteness yet finding a breakfast basket underneath our tent upon waking up including homemade tomato jam, freshly baked bread and oak meal muffins, hot tea, juice and local cheese.
Actually nature life is really tiring and time flies by for the fundamental needs of surviving: setting up the tent with a plan B for rain at night,
improvise an outdoor kitchen and cook cowering down, sipping on a Sagres beer not realizing that a wasp is already drinking it without my permission (well, I got stung and had a massive lip lasting three days whereas the evening of day two was the worst. At least I know now that I am unsuited for Botox lips), eating, doing the dishes (it is really interesting to watch the animal cycle when you are not fast enough doing the dishes: first come the wasps, then the flies and an then the ants, first the big ones and later the tiny ones…),
wrapping up all groceries and hanging them in the tree to be protected from being consumed by other cohabitants, put on sunscreen, relax from the above mentioned things and the sun and fresh air, maybe going for a short walk,
start cooking again, making tent ready for night, taking a shower (optional, as you are in nature),
brushing teeth, watching sunset, going to bed.. waking up with sunrise and repeat…
Maybe city life is not too bad for every day life. But on the other hand in nature you focus on the essential things…
Listening: to the night rain or Some kind of Nature by Gorillaz
What I learned from Waldemar who shaped this part of nature in a sustainable way and named it Bubulcus and Bolotas: oak meal muffins are pretty yummy, yes, there are snakes and scorpions in Portugal and you can put cork in brick form and get a perfect material for moisture-proofing of houses and by the way – it looks really designy. Bubulcus Ibis is the name of a local bird and Bolotas is Portuguese for acorn.
Great features at Bubulcus and Bolotas: Getting as close to nature as you can when camping in the wilderness yet having access to amenities and the great option to get a breakfast basket delivered if you are too lazy to make it yourself. The campground is designed in a way that you can hardly see any neighbouring campers. The idea of sustainability is constantly worked on to be as little invasive as possible to mother nature. I hope Bubulcus keeps this spirit.
‹Icke› – Berlin
Berlin is like a teenager that constantly changes her appearance and reinvents herself. She has her own will and doesn’t care what people think. Berlin is proud, at times tough, direct, but always real and honest. As soon as you think you have understood her, she has gone though another metamorphosis. Therefore the golden rule to get the best out of this stubborn lady: Enjoy the moment with Berlin, breathe deep and soak everything in. It might all different when meeting her next time.
This is a snapshot of Berlin with some of the places I love at the moment, for the moment in my beloved Berlin. Berlin please, never grow up!
Rent a bike (cheap bikes can be rent here: Lila Bikes; Schönhauser Allee 41, 10435 Berlin (Prenzlauer Berg); Mob.: +49 176 611 249 09) to discover town and feel like a local. There are plenty of bike paths. But watch out: The locals drive like crazy…
Alternatively take a “Tagesticket AB” (Day Pass) to get around town. It costs 7,00 Euro. You can buy them at the ticket machines at the U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations. Tobacco shops with a yellow sign indicating “BVG” also sell tickets. The U8 is the best option to obeserve people from all walks of life.
Weekends in Berlin are all about sleeping in and enjoying a beautiful breakfast before starting the day. Most Cafés open at 10.00 am and are crowded by 11.00 am. So you should either be an early bird and get there by ten or after 12.30 pm.
Rag and Bone Man
Briesestraße 9, 12053 Berlin (Neukölln); (U7-Karl-Marx-Str.); (Mo-Fr: 9.00-19.00; Sat/Sun: 10.00-18.00)
This little place in the heart of Neukölln combines everything I like: cosy atmosphere, hip but not yet hipster, inspiration, amazing food also for the eye (see pictures above). The place also houses a small second hand, macrame and flower shop. You should definitely try the freshly made “Berliner” with vanilla custard and jam. As I am more a salty breakfast eater my breakfast here always has two courses: Poached egg on avocado toast as a starter followed by the “Berliner”. If you choose the green tea you can get a second, third and fourth flush of your tea for free. The other drinks are served in pretty small glasses for the money they cost…
Sanderstraße 13, 12047 Berlin; (U8 – Schönleinstraße); (Tue-Sun: 10.00-18.00)
It’s really hard to decide in this cafe: Best porridge (e.g. with blueberries and cardamon) in town that feeds you for the whole day or delicoius “smørrebrot” where you dive into a jungle of fresh lettuce, berries and smoked tofu until you reach the homebaked bread with butter? Two courses don’t work out here as the porridge is such a rich dish. So you have to visit twice. The hot drinks are all served in a massive “hug mug” that takes care of enough hydration.
Weinbergsweg 8, 10119 Berlin; Phone: +49 (0)30 76213035 (U8-Rosenthaler Platz)
My favorite eat out in “Mitte”. Always crowded especially in the evenings so better reserve a table! Tasty, freshly made Chinese dumplings that are served in the typical bamboo dumpling steamers. Though most people come for the dumplings, I highly recommend the silk tofu, which is served slightly warm with a tasty sauce. Also very delicious and something very different is the sticky rice in a lotus leaf. Drink either one of the tasty fruit cocktails (I prefer the one with lychee and watermelon) or drink a tea flower (for the lovebirds, try the white tea one, it is tied into the shape a heart and unfolds a beautiful flower in the hot water).
Mulackstraße 29, 10119 Berlin; (U8-Weinmeisterstraße)
Head to this place for a hot Vietnamese soup “Pho” off Mitte’s main shopping street “Alte Schönhauser Straße” and relax from shopping in a calm and friendly atmosphere. The fresh fruit cocktails revitalize. Really good value for money. Small soup, some summerolls and a drink for less than 10.00 Euro/person!
Le Corbusier House
Flatowallee 16, 14055 Berlin; (S-Olympia Stadion)
Hardenbergstraße 22,10623 Berlin; (S/U-Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten)
I never was disappointed by C/O’s photo exhibitions. Though I preferred the old location at “Altes Postfuhramt” in Mitte they made the most of the new location – the house represents so much the look of former West-Berlin. Apropos, take the chance to discover the former West Berlin after visiting the exhibition…
Hobrechtstraße 66, 12047 Berlin (Neukölln), Phone: +49 (0)30 37 30 58 06, (U-Hermannplatz)
In the heart of “Wrangel-Kiez” Hüttenpalast is an old factory building that has been transformed into an indoor camping ground. You sleep in an old refurbished caravan on white linen. The bathroom is shared as it is on a normal camping ground. Do not worry, the hall is heated! A Caravan for two costs 69,00 Euro per night. The price also includes tea/coffee, a croissant and an apple served in the common area. For a proper breakfast head to one of the many cafés close by, e.g. Café Valentin.
My two favourite caravans are: Kleine Schwester and Dübener Ei.
Rosenthaler Straße 69, 10119 Berlin (Mitte), (U-Rosenthaler Platz)
Great value for money. You are in the heart of Mitte. Hackescher Markt with all its little shops are only a stone’s throw away. The rooms are very clean, the mattresses, pillows and duvets very good. The fact that you can choose between a room with or without a window shows what kind of hotel this is…If you book early in advance you get a double room with window for 39,00 Euros. That’s unbeatable. Café Fleury (Weinbergsweg 20, 10119 Berlin) is a three minutes walk and serves very tasty breakfast with a hint of French.
Amsterdam Noord: Colour Candy
The old industrial northern part of Amsterdam is developing very fast, but in the meantime you can enjoy the creativtiy that pops up at every corner. Hopefully it stays Amsterdam’s creative playground for a while.
When I took this picture it was pretty cold and windy. So we stopped at Café Noorderlicht (NDSM-Plein 102, 1033 WB Amsterdam) afterwards for a hot, fresh mint tea. I fell in love with this cosy, alternative place. The wind was kept outside and the sun touched my skin through the glass house. I felt like a plant in a greenhouse…
One day I would like to have my own living container by the sea with a full glass front and a round hole in the roof above my bed to look at the stars. In the meantime I use the mini container DS designed by Kuno Nüssli as storage place in our apartment and as constant reminder…
More places I like in Amsterdam Noord you can find here
Winterwonderland wasn’t planned when traveling to Istanbul for New Year’s, but it was magical seeing the palm trees and cactus plants covered in snow and the steep streets becoming slides. Snowmen of all kind conquered the streets sitting on pathways in front of a shop, welcoming the guests of a car park or taking a rest on a litter box.
We discovered mainly the European part of Istanbul, namely the Beyoglu neigbourhood. It’s amazing how the character of an area can change within a street so I got the feeling that Galata and Chihangir were more small little neighbourhoods instead of belonging to one – Beyoglu.
Weather can change rapidly and can be extreme during winter. We had it all: Perfect blue sky with wintersun to snowstorm to dark grey sky for the whole day to heavy rain that turned the steep streets into rivers. I would now say: lined rubber boots are the way to go.
Some households still rely on flying carpets for transportation as the city rapidly grew from not even 3 Million in 1980 to more than 15 Million in 2015, but the metro network didn’t grow with it.
Home away from home: Manzara Apartments. First and last view of the day when lying in bed of the apartment “Arif”: The Bosporus. Made me feel real cosmopolitan.
Do not miss the rooftop terrace with an amazing 360 degree view over Istanbul. If you want you can have breakfast prepared by Manzara served at their gallery, it was really tasty. We ate there on our first day. The gallery also sells little gifts from local artists and agricultral cooperations to bring home.
The Turks love to sleep in on weekends which pleased us loads. The best in winter time is to sleep in and then start the day with an extensive breakfast in a cute little café. My two favorite ones were these:
Hipster Breakfast at Dandin Bakery (No:A, Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa, Kılıç Ali Paşa Mescidi Sk. No:17, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Türkei; Phone:+90 212 245 3369)
Dogaciyizcom (Kılıçali Paşa Mah.Kasatura sokak No: 16/A Beyoğlu/Cihangir/İstanbul; +90 212 243 8190)
Pretty authentic little Turkish café in a calm sidestreet. When we came there it felt more like visiting friends for brekafast than visiting a café. The ground floor is usually stuffed with a lively student crowd.
Take the Turkish Breakfast with an extra Menemen (scrambled eggs Turkish style) – it is stunning. The whole table is covered with small little bowls from home made fig and rosehip marmelade, honey with honeycomb to eggplant mousse, hommus to different sorts of cheeses and olives.
Other food you should try while in Istanbul:
Salep (warm, runny vanilla custard e.g. at Mado, 186 Istiklal Caddesi, Istanbul Beyoğlu); Manti (Turkish tortellini, I love the ones at Dai Pera, Yeni Çarşı Cd. No:54,34433,İstanbul; +90 212 252 8099); Gözleme (try the sweet potato one at Hala Manti, Evliya Çelebi,34433 İstanbul)
Istanbul Modern (Karaköy, Meclis-i Mebusan Cad., 34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul; Phone: +90 212 334 7300; closed on Mondays)
The building and its location directly at the seafront are amazing and futuristic, so don’t miss it.
I would recommend to buy an Istanbul Card directly at the airport. You can charge the card with money and then access public transport. Driving by cab isn’t expensive, so it’s also a good option. Keep in mind though, traffic in Istanbul can be crazy and it may take three times longer than going with the metro and walk. Here you can find a list of approximate prices for a taxi ride.
Paris: A Parisienne for 72 hours
Daydreaming and eating baguette for breakfast…
Waiting dogs and the smell of all kinds of urine in the streets…
Being a big city traffic soldier: Navigating up and down the hills through crazy traffic switching from the bicycle path to the street to the sidewalk always searching for the gap to procede on your way to the next stop.
Rent a bike that does not look like a rental: Vélo Paris (44, rue d’Orsel, 75018 Paris)
Inspiration: La manufacture parisienne (93 rue marcadet, paris 18)
When streetart inspires making streetart…A neighbour found the ghosts to bring depressive vibes in the hood and took matters into his hand, or better on the wall…
Hidden arty surprises in some corners…
Feeling bohemian and ready to train for a Pina performance in the dressing room area of the Isabel Marant boutique (16 Rue de Charonne, +33 1 49 29 71 559)
You found it when you feel totally lost next to KFC in front of the metro exit Porte de Clignancourt. The (fruit) dealers try to make the entrance seem inconspicious but hey: Go ahead! A little wonder of creativity, alternative but yet hipster flair is waiting behind: La Recyclerie: 83 Boulevard Ornano; 75018 Paris; +33 1 42 57 58 49)…
Letting the sun shine on you while sipping on a drink…
Soaking in the life of South Pigalle passing by sitting in front of a café with your love sipping on a hot drink: KBCoffeeshop (53 Avenue Trudaine, 75009 Paris, +33 1 56 92 12 41)…
Cocooning in a little, frenchy apartment in South Pigalle sipping on a glass of wine and eating artichoke bits after a long day of cycling and soaking in Paris, taking a hot bath before cuddlling yourself under the massive duvet…
Amsterdam Noord: Take me to the other side
Getting a place to stay in Amsterdam in summer, four weeks before arrival can be a real challenge. Well, the good thing: you look beyond your own nose.
…and voilà: you find yourself in an upcoming neighbourhood including the adventure of taking a ferry to get to and from your home for two days: Sweet Dreamz (Meidoornweg 2; Phone:020-4940684) in Amsterdam Noord. Two oldschool stylish bikes per room are included in the price. The rooms are spacious, each of the three rooms is well curated and sunny. There is no breakfast, but an Albert Heijn supermarket is only a stone’s throw away, so you can either grab some food and cycle around till you find a nice spot by the canal to eat or if it’s rainy eat your self-brought breakie in your room.
Industrial flair in this old boat house directly at the waterkant: Hotel de Goudfazant (Aambeeldstraat 10 H; Phone: 020 – 63 65 170)
Ate best oysters of my life!
Don’t feel confused on your way to the restaurant: Yes, it is in a rural industrial area. Just follow the music of the next door boulder center. If your budget is low, just come here with your picnic from Albert Heijn, sit on one of the public benches and get in touch with the locals.
Fleamarket at IJ-Hallen (Tt. Neveritaweg 15; Phone:+31 229 581 598)
Biggest fleamarket I have every seen: Full of old industrial furniture for incredibly cheap prices. Come here with a huge car! Vintage hunting makes hungry so take the chance to try the Poffertje’s (Dutch pancakes) situated at the entrance to the big hall.
On the other side
Fall in love with this picture from artist Stiger Woods I saw at the concept store Hutspot (Van Woustraat 4; Phone: 020-2231331) in de Pijp…
Quick fruit boost at Pluk (Reestraat 19). The two smoothies are very tasty and the interior design is too good to be true. A bit irritating was that even the staff took pictures of the food they sold with their smart phones…
Drinking an organic coke at “La Tete” directly at the ferry stop “Westerdocksdijk”. A modern version of the chippy selling loose tea, selfmade granola and wraps with hummus. Very relaxed atmosphere.
..before heading back to my hood…
A short sociological observation for the hipster in us:
Amsterdam = Hipster heaven: Beautiful and well dressed people, eating organic food, drinking the most healthy green smoothies not missing a good portion of chia seeds, going shopping in well curated concept stores of course (mmh, which coffee table book should I buy?) and hunting industrial vintage furniture at the flea-market, or better, a curated vintage furniture store…
One thing makes the hipster sad…This is all mainstream in Amsterdam.
There is no time like the present
I just came back from my first business trip outside Europe and my first time in the Middle East. This trip opened my eyes in many ways. Although I am very much into international cultural relations due to my work I realised how many stereotypes I had in my mind that I luckily got rid of now. What I found in Beirut was a modern multicultural city where Muslims and Christians live together in mutual respect, where foreigners encounter great hospitality and honest interest in ones culture. I would say I fell in love with the people.
While there is much work still to be done to overcome the disputed past, the Lebanon is facing new challenges: More than 1.5 million refugees from Syria entered the country since 2013 adding to the 280 000 Palestinians that have already been living in camps for many years now. Furthermore IS on the doorstep… I admire the attitude of the people very much. Upon asking them about the fact that the former invaders are now entering the country as refugees I got the reply: “It’s not the people that invaded us it was the Syrian state”. To get along with the uncertain future of the country the locals developed their own strategy by deciding to live in the fleeting present as there is no time like the present.
When strolling around town you are constantly listening to an orchestra of honking, the cars playing their unique symphony to get the organic driving flow to work without crashing. I really like the old Mercedes-taxis you can see around in all colours. To get around town do rather take a “Servicetaxi” (transporting several passengers at once) which is many times cheaper. When taking a taxi do not forget to bargain the price beforehand as there are no taximeters. A taxi to the airport costs 20 USD.
As I haven’t had time to stroll around town as I normally do on holidays I had to trust coincidence to stumble into a store I can recommend, but actually I made it!
35 rooms: spacious rooms, very clean, great hot shower and very comfy beds. The breakfast was also very good. They call themselves the trendiest Hotel in town. Well you can think about that what you want, but at least it’s the trendiest hotel fallen out of a catalogue.
My tip: Next time I want to stay at BEYT, a place created by three dreamers that set up a home as they would have loved to grow up in as kids. On the first floor of a traditional Lebanese building, the guesthouse is situated in Mar Mkhayel – Beirut’s Hipster area.
zawal (Armenia Street, Geara Building, Mar Mikhael, Tel.: +9611444110): Contemporary and traditional artisanal objects and up-cycled design items.
Plan BEY (next to zawal): Art gallery that also sells really good postcards with photos showing the Beirut of the past.
Small guide to Quito, the Jungle,
the Andes and the Beach
Route: Quito –> Latacunga –> Quilotoa Loop (Andes) –> Cotopaxi (Andes) –> Cuyabeno Reserve (Jungle) –> Otavalo –> Mompiche –> Quito
Length: 22 days
Best time to travel: April (low season)
City of Murals and Steep Hills
Slept at: A hidden treasure I found surfing through tons of sites at airbnb and a perfect spot to get used to the altitude: A two storey loft with a terrace overlooking the city in a secured house. After a long, long, journey we were warmly welcomed by our host Fernando in the middle of the night – our first friend who gave us helpful advice and the feeling of being welcome in the country we were to discover the next three weeks. I felt as if being implanted in a designer’s loft shown in magazines – the home of an aesthete and cinephile.
Getting around town: A taxi in the inner city does not cost more than 2,00 USD so this was our choice or we walked which is quite easy and safe at daytime in the historical center, Mariscal (also called Gringolandia) and La Floresta. The registered taxis have an app which was very helpful. Flagging down taxis can be difficult. Traffic in the historical center is crazy, walking is much faster and there is plenty of tourist police which made us feel very safe till dawn. The registered taxis all have a taximeter, cameras and recording inside the taxi, a panic button and a registration plate.
Here is the contact of a very friendly and helpful taxi driver, who felt like being a friend when we left who knew the addresses of the places we wanted to go, had good stories of the barrios and gave us helpful advice for public transport outside of town to save time: Kleber Iza: 0984186290/ 2604156.
Taxis to and from the Airport cost 27,00 USD. The registered taxi information and booking desk is directly opposite of the arrival door at the airport so you can’t miss it.
Museo de Arte Moderno (Museum of Modern Art)
(Montevideo y Louis Dávilla/ Antiguo Hospital Militar, Tue-Sun 9.00 am – 5.00 pm)
Murals, sculptures of petrol cans, media art… All really contemporary and housed in a beautiful old building. The Museum has a small shop where you can buy artsy stuff.
Barrio La Floresta
My favorite part of town where you can get in touch with Quito’s creative scene, where you find Quito’s only arthouse Cinema ocho y medio, great murals and places to sip a cafe or wonder what else you can do with bikes (Restaurant/Bar La Cleta).
Café Jervis (Guipuzcoa, Quito 170143)
For me the best place in the barrio la Floresta to relax after strolling around the neighbourhood and taken loads of pictures of the great murals. It is one of the rare places in Ecuador where you get a coffee from a proper barrista machine. As non-coffee drinker I can highly recommend the fresh fruit tea made of local fruits (infusion de frutas) or the watermelon rosemary juice (jugo de sandia y romero)
Free Walking tour
It starts at 10.30 am every day in front of the community hostal (Pedro Fermín Cevallos) in the historic district of Quito. Very worth doing especially to get to know the local food in it’s variety, an inside into daily Ecuadorian life and history.
Did you know, people with green eyes are called “gato” (cat) in Ecuador as there are more cats than humans found in this country with this eye-colour. So, I was a rare species here…
Some General tips that could be helpful when planning your trip from Quito:
- Be aware that you might have to unwillingly come back to Quito to get a flight or a bus to somewhere else, so do not plan to much time at the beginning to stay here. The pollution of the city is awful.
- All destinations that are on the Panamericana can be reached comparatively fast. But for all destinations east and west of it, it can take three hours for 60 km as the bus has to wind itself up and down the mountains.
- Count one hour to get from the city to any bus terminal for the buses to reach other regions in the countries.
- Be sure to have accommodation booked upon arriving late at night, as the hostels are according to Ecuadorian law not allowed to let you in otherwise.
- Ecuador is a country for early birds in every sense of the word. Getting up early and getting to bed early. For me life seemed to stop latest 7 pm on the streets after sunset and startet at 5 am.
- European mobile phones with Ecuadorian prepaid cards do not work in most parts of Ecuador as Ecuador runs on the same system as the U.S. If you choose to buy a prepaid card in Ecuador be aware that it will only work in Quito and the other huge cities of the country. Moviestar and Claro are the main services with Claro being the preferred one in the jungle.
- Prepare yourself: You will get the next hot shower back at home.
Quito – Latacunga – Saquisili – Latacunga – Isinlivi -Chugchilán – Quilotoa – Zumbahua – Latacunga
One good option to start the loop is on Thursday. Taking a very early morning bus at 7.00 am from Quitumbe terminal in Quito (taxi ride from the city center for 12,00 USD) to Latacunga makes it possible to see the massive market of Saquisili (20 min with the bus from Latacunga; Or: Many people ask the driver to be dropped of at the crossing to Saquisili and walk down the street until they flag down the next bus, but beware: The buses are crowded on market days). The market is spread all over town on eight plazas where you can buy nearly everything.
Back in Latacunga take the bus to either Sichos or directly to Isinlivi. If you do not want to do the hike with all your luggage you can leave it in a hostel in Latacunga until you come back. They won’t charge more that 5,00 USD for storage. I did the hike with my whole luggage (10kg backpack) which can be challenging in parts if you are only a hobby hiker.
The hike from Isinlivi to Chugchilán takes 4-6 hours. Walking without heavy luggage and only doing a short break you can make it in four I think (or you are a local). Well it took me 6 hours where I had enough time to enjoy the beautiful landscape, take pictures and rest on my way. Start early as the daily rain comes at 3.00 pm!
Slept at: Llulu Lama Hostal: After dinner you can chat with other travelers sitting around the fireplace on comfy couches. Do not expect private sphere in the private rooms though as all rooms in the house open their door towards the common area. As the hostal is run by volonteers from around the world you have to be lucky to get helpful advice for your trip. What I found disappointing: the locals have to do the cleaning. That gave the hostal a bitter colonial touch.
From Chugchilán you can either hike the way up to Quilotoa where the highlight of the loop, the blue lagoon is situated or do a day trip on a horse. A one day horse trip to the lagoon and back to Chugchilán costs 20,00 USD. It is an authentic experience to gallop on narrow little paths winding up and down the hills and on the crater lip. I recommend this route only for experienced riders though as it can be really exciting galloping on the little paths next to the slope on a horse you do not know.
From Quilotoa you can either hike to Zumbahua, where there is a picturesque market each saturday, take a bus or private transport. How about buying your own lama for 60 USD or a baby lama for 20 USD? The crafts and textiles they sell are mostly imported from Otavalo and therefore more expensive here. I did not hike to Zumbahua and Tigua for the rest of the loop as the landscape on this side of the mountains is pretty paltry.
Slept at: Cloudforest hostal. The place feels like a mountain refugio with a great host: José, who sneaks from table to table at dinnertime for a small chat but also for giving you great advice and connecting travelers with the same plans to save money. I also got an inside taste of the ecuadorian cuisine. Best value for money on my whole trip.
Slept at: Secret Garden Hostel Cotopaxi: A magical place. I felt like in my anthroposophical student home with a hint of luxury. If you get the chance to stay in the honeymoon suite: Do it! You have your own round iron stove that has been heated for you, a bath tub and warm water (!). Plus a huge bed on the first floor after climbing a steep staircase overlooking the Cotopaxi while lying under the rooftop in your bed. If not, the dorm beds are very comfy and the dorm houses also have a round iron stove. After a daytrip climbing Ruminahui you can sit in the jacuzzi watching the mountain you just climbed. All meals are included as well as coffee, tea, bananas and fresh cake. The waterfall hike is for free (running every day at 2.00 pm). The other tours cost betwenn 10 -40 USD. A summit hike to Cotopaxi is 260 USD.
Flight: Quito –> Lago Agrio (40 min) and then 3,5 hours to the Cuyabeno Bridge by public bus, then pick up with the boat and transport to the lodge (10 min) or night-bus from Quito.
All of a sudden I wasn’t scared of tarantulas, big insects and other animals any longer. These normally set me screaming… I was caught by nature’s daily life, everything seemed so peaceful around me. No problems with mosquitos thanks to my 40% DEET insect repellent. The nightly rain and the cicadas where my lullaby and thanks to full board I did not have to care about how to get fed. My only task: Enjoying the beauty of nature and getting my senses sharpened for the vibrant life around me.
One highlight besides nature was baking Yucca bread in an indigenous community.
Slept at: Cuyabeno River Lodge: Small, very friendly lodge where you get the feeling of staying with friends. Each guest has an own litte hut on stilts. Very good value for money. I payed 260,00 USD for a 4 day trip that included all expenses except of 5,00 USD extra when baking Yucca bread in an indigenous family. I booked the tour on the day I left Quito via Ecomontes. On our way back to Lago Agrio the owner of the lodge gave us a direct shuttle back to Lago Agrio without charging any costs.
I went to Otavalo to get the chance to buy some local crafts to take home. Otavalo is a nice, little town with a really amazing food market and beautifully dressed locals. The textile and crafts market did not impress me though. I did not find the products neither authentic nor hand-made. The market is said to be best and largest on saturdays. I was there on Tuesday, maybe that was the reason.
After two weeks of adventures I felt like relaxing on the beach, although Ecuador is not famous for beautiful, remote beaches. But I found a really nice spot. It is a nightmare to get here, but you won’t think of the journey one second after you arrived in this little treasure on the north coast of Ecuador. To get here you have to take a bus from Quitumbe terminal in Quito to Atacames (if you want to safe money take the night bus that leaves round 11.00 pm every day). From Atacames it is another 3,5 hours bus ride to Mompiche.
Well, as Mompiche was not remote enough I chose to sleep in a little beach house on stilts a 20 min walk down the beach which is only accessible at low tide.
I spent the days lying in the hammock on my veranda watching the ocean coming and going, enjoying the isolation, swimming across the river into town because I urgently needed to get the best chai-tea ever at Choclata, observing crayfish, going for a surf every once in a while (what a luxury having my own waves!) and ending the day with a sunset swim.
Getting back to Quito is astonishingly comfortable as you can book private transport for 30,00 USD. It is a 6,5 h ride. Ask for Jenny in downtown Mompiche to organise the shuttle.
La Chocolata: Tasty home-baked cakes, bread and salty snacks, best chai-tea ever and free WiFi.
Sully’s (100m north of T-junction): Seafood and steak where you can be sure of the freshness and hygienic preparation. Very delicious. Sully himself is very caring, glasses get magically refilled and showing tiniest sign of being teased by the mosquitos and he brings the insect repellant. But beware: He is not open every day!
Slept at: Yarumo Lodge: as close as you can get the ocean! Hammock on the veranda, nature 360 degrees, delicious breakfast! 40 USD per night/beach house including breakfast and very friendly hosts! If this is not enough why not let yourself be professionally massaged by Katharina, one of the hosts?
Ecuador is a place where you can experience four climate zones in one country, travel to latitude zero and climb the highest point on earth (measured from the earth center). A must for adventure lovers and people who want to leave their daily life far behind. On a budget you can’t expect European standards, with money you can enjoy eco-friendly luxury. I meet the most friendly travellers ever on this trip.
Updated: 27 October 2014
Steep hills, colourful tiled old town houses, outstanding food
Where San Francisco meets Valparaiso meets Europe’s old Glory
Downtown Design Hostel: Rua dos Sapateiros 231, Lisboa
There is no obvious sign when you stand at the front door of this old town house next to a strip bar, but you are right when you reached the first house on the street coming from the Praca Dom Pedro IV. Once you are in, it feels quite homey. From the breakfast table you have a perfect view on Praca Dom Pedro IV. The double rooms with shared bathroom come with a little balcony. Great value for money. Double room with breakfast for 2 People/night: 35,00 Euro. You are right in the City center but can enjoy a quiete sleep. Be aware though that the service can be quite chaotic as the hostel is way understuffed…
A Casa das Janelas com Vista: Rua Nova do Loureiro 35, Lisboa
Charming little boutique bed and breakfast for design fetishists. The service is guests’ heaven. Chill on one of the massive couches in the living room like at home before going to bed reading an international design magazine or let your eyes wonder around the room to catch another little interior detail while drinking some fresh mint tea without being charged any money. The breakfast is as artesanal as are the rooms with a good hint of local specialties and with freshly squeezed orange juice as much as you want to get the right boost for the day to climb Lisbon’s steep hills. Book well in advance to get a room.
Tram 28: take the old fashioned tram for a first discovery of town. It will wind up and down the hills passing all important tourist points. Starting the trip not in downtown but at the last station (Praca Sao Joao Bosco) will give you an authentic experience sharing the tram with locals and kids hanging on outside the tram instead of a horde of tourists.
It is best (cheaper) to buy the tickets at a local ”jugos” shop. There are heaps around town. One trip lasts one hour and you can hop on and off as you want. A single ticket costs around 1.70 Euro.
I loved getting lost in the labyrinth of streets and hills discovering heaps of great murials, street laterns, amazing tiles and viewpoints (like the Miradouro do Adamastor) with an amazing views of the different angles of town.
Luxury Option: let yourself be driven around town in the sidecar of an oldtimer motorbicycle. A three hours guided tour costs 120,00 Euro for two people.
Car: Parking in town is ridiculously expensive (up to 46 Euros for one day!). A good car park still in walking distance to downtown is Marques (Entrance at: Alameda Edgar Cardoso). You pay 12 Euro/24h. Parking on the street is not recommandable. The police locks your wheels and you will pay a hell lot of money.
Café Fabúlas: Calçada Nova de São Francisco 14, Lisboa, Phone: +351 21 601 8472
Best place to grab something to eat or have a drink in downtown without five language menu cards and with tasty Portugese fusion cuisine. Food is served on old sewing machine tables and other vintage finds.
Landeau: Lx Factory, Rua Rodrigues Faria 103, Lisboa
I accidently stumbled in Sophie’s Café at the LX factory: Choclate cake to die for!
Gelateria Nannarella: Rua Nova da Piedade, 68, Lisboa
Eating this amazing icecream reminded me of my childhood. The icecream was dropping everywhere as the bowl is massive, first down the scone then on my hand, then on my other hand because I switched it when I realized the running ice cream, then on my clothes. In the end I had a smiling face covered with a massive choclate beard around my mouth and my dotted dress got new brown dots ;-).
Artesanal tasty choclate. I fell in love with the design of the wrapping paper of all the different types of choclate and the cute choclate umbrellas.
Burger Factory: Lx Factory, Rua Rodrigues Faria 103, Lisboa
Lisbon has a lot of similarities to San Francisco: A City built on hills, a “Golden Gate Bridge”, a City shaped by the sea, a lot of hidden treasures and heaps of burger places. That makes me think that hamburger are also a kind of national food to the Portugese People like the “Döner” for the Germans. This burger place serves hand made chips to your burger with Chili and apple, blue cheese and other (not so) common combinations.
Taberna Portuguesa: Calçada do Combro 115, Lisboa; Phone: +351 914 289 997
Tasty local tapas and the best Sangria “con frutas de bosque” I drank after a long day discovering Lisbon. Take three tapas to share for two. This is how the locals do it! I can recommend the cheese bits with tomato jam, some dish with bacalau, Portugal’s most famous fish and the beans with garliac.
Manteigaria: Praça de Luis de Camões, 1200 Lisboa
For dessert on your walk back to the hotel or as a gift for your beloved ones at home: “Pastéis De Nata”. At Manteigaria you get the best in town: fresh from the oven into your mouth with a hint of cinnamon.Yum!
A vida Portugesa:
Items from the good old times all made in Portugal. The Portugese Manufactum. Try your luck at the cardbord game and win jummy choclate at the check out.
Atelier Autêntico: Beco da Rosa, 2C e 2D, Lisboa
Vintage Stuff: Lx Factory, Rua Rodrigues Faria 103, Lisboa
Rua Sao Bento: Vintage furniture heaven!
Cavalo de Pau: Rua Sao Bento 164, Lisboa
Vintage furniture from around the world. The fish you can see on the picture is a former hook for fishing that I am now using to hang up my necklaces. Nice to dive into another world but pricy.
Embaixada: Praca do Principe Real 26, Lisboa
This old embassy building turned to a fashionista magnet. The building is home to small fashion designers from Portugal with their little boutiques. The Café in the Patio serves very good Galao for 1,20 Euro.
Ler Devagar (“Read slowly”) – Bookshop: Rua Rodrigues Faria,n. 103, Lisboa
A dream of a bookstore comes true. I wish I could read Portugese…