In Portugal: Exploring Sintra

I found out about Sintra watching a YouTube video and instantly put it on the list. That very long, detailed list. I had wanted to go to Lisbon for such a long time and since Sintra is close to Lisbon, I decided to book my ticket.

I arrived in Lisbon and got straight on a train to Sintra, the 40 minute journey is easy and relaxing. There are only a few stops till you pull into Sintra station, a small building opposite cafes, shops and tourist information points. 

Going right out of the station brings you to the less touristy part of Sintra, with restaurants and supermarkets but turn left and you get to all the sights, beautiful parks, colourful buildings and small streets. 

First on my agenda was to wonder around and figure out what to do for the next two days. The town is built on the bottom of a hill, so if you want to walk to all the sights prepare for the steep hills, if you don’t want to walk, outside of the train station there are buses to all the local sights. I went to Sintra in October and the queues for the busses were still very long. Be warned you will have little old women elbowing you to get on the bus. PhoebeGill171002564.jpg

Best things I did in Sintra

Quinta da Regaleira

This gothic palace and grounds is an amazing way to spend a morning. I walked to the park from my hotel, it’s an easy walk and a little uphill walk. The entrance fee is €6 which gives you access to the palace, the chapel, the sunken tower and secret tunnels. PhoebeGill171003745There are so many beautiful elements to this park, that you should explore for yourself, I would get up early, go straight to the tower and enjoy a quiet moment before the crowds roll in. The palace is like an IKEA type system of a walk through, whenever people get into this system it’s like no one can over take or you are just rude but if you are like me and get antsy when you are in a small space with lots of people, do it, there are many beautiful spots in the palace but it gets really busy! I would bring a snack and have a little picnic in one of the many beautiful spots in the grounds. PhoebeGill171003660

Park and National Palace of Pena

This palace is huge and beautiful, I recommend getting the 343 bus to this location because it is a very long way, up many small roads. The bus costs €5 euro round trip and entrance into the Palace and Park is €11.50.PhoebeGill171003866The walk up to the entrance of the palace is also uphill, are you seeing a pattern with Sintra? It is one big hill. If you are travelling with older people there is a little bus that brings you up and down the hill to the palace, for a small fee but again there will be queues. The palace is again, a walkthrough, IKEA type style so be aware that there is lots of people at all times. I don’t think this place would ever be quiet. The queuing and the hills are worth it, there are so many beautiful views, colours, and tiles that would make anyone want to take a million photos.

Walking around Sintra town

There are lots of things to see when walking around the town, from bars and cafes, palaces and the most beautiful buildings. There is so much colour nature all over the town. PhoebeGill171002605Some of my favourite places are the walk to the town from the station, pretty tiles, beautiful parks, views over the town, street sellers. It is the perfect balance of tourism ad natural. The little streets behind the palace square, lemon trees and pink flowers, small bars and restaurants. Eating Pastel de Nata from the cafe, sitting on the terrace watching the sun go down. PhoebeGill171002611Going to Sintra first was a great decision, it eases you in to the beauty of Portugal with the volume of tourists. It has to be on your list!

Where I stayed

Hotel Nova Sintra

This hotel is a 4 minute uphill walk from the train station. After you walk up the stairs you arrive at a beautiful terrace looking out over the main hill of Sintra. PhoebeGill171002614I got a room right next to reception downstairs and it was beautiful, airy and comfortable. There is no lift and a lot of steps but it’s a very comfortable hotel. Breakfast is a simple but tasty affair. I really enjoyed my stay. PhoebeGill171001013To me Sintra is a must, go, walk, explore, have angry older women get livid at queues, walk up a lot of hills and have fun! Next on the adventure is Lisbon.

Happy Travels!

In Kyoto: Arashiyama

You get out of the pretty Arashiyama train station and start walking. This Ghibli like area is beautiful, small roads and neighbourhoods that reflects the serene nature I was about to come upon. The sun was shining, it was warm and I was here to see the bamboo forest.

I didn’t want to take the path everyone was going because when you join a heard you can miss things. I decided to go down a small path and it’s as if this path had it’s own micro climate. It was humid and smelt like a rainforest, it was so peaceful and calm. The Katsura river is still except the boats and ducks that are cutting through the water. Along the bank of the river people are making food to sell, I stood and watched the way they use what’s around them, a small stream of water from the top of the mountain is filtered down to their fish tanks, keeping their fish alive and water in their sinks. It was wonderful.  PhoebeGill161026004I sat here and ate my breakfast and watched the boats go buy. It’s times like these that it’s great to get lost and go the wrong way because what you can find is wonderful.

I then realised that if I was to ever make the Bamboo forest I needed to go the right way. This means going back along the pretty river and over the Togetsukyō Bridge. This beautiful structure gets you across the river, has the most stunning views and was nicknamed the Moon Crossing Bridge. It’s all very romantic and totally deserved. PhoebeGill161026080When you get to the main area of Arasiyama it becomes a lot more busy. There are lots of tourist nicknacks, restaurants and other wonderful finds that you just have to explore for yourself. There are lots of signs alerting you on where to go but what I have found is that if you follow where most of the people are going, they will bring you to the main tourist spot. PhoebeGill161026010After I went to the bamboo forest, it was the middle of the day and the sun was getting hot, I walked over the bridge to find people painting by the water. I stopped and watched this older gentleman watercolour the scene. Arashiyama is a place where I felt like I fit, it felt easy and familiar but at the same time so new and exciting.

Happy Travels!

 

 

In Split: Marjan Hill

Marjan hill is the beautiful peak of green you can see as you walk around old town. It was one of the things I really wanted to do in Split. On google maps it looks really far out of the city but it’s actually a really easy walk to do.   PhoebeGill150617014-1

The hill is a spiral uphill walk with a fair few steps. There is a shuttle that can bring you up and down but I wanted the walk so I don’t know when it leaves or how much it is. I would recommend you go early in the morning or in the evening as the colder temperatures are nicer to hike up to the top. PhoebeGill150617125-3

Once you reach the top there is one main view looking over old town and the mountains behind. Although this is a fantastic look out location there are lots of trees covering the view. Now in no way do I think the trees should be taken down but just be aware your view might be obscured. PhoebeGill150617093-2

I really liked the uphill walk, it was nice to get a good bit of exercise when you have just been sitting on buses and eating. It’s not just a lookout point it’s also a park, this is an area where people walk their dogs and play with their kids. It’s a really nice place to go when you are in Split.

One thing I have to note is that this is where Split Zoo is. I urge you to never step foot into this “attraction” there is nothing that is nice or kind about this zoo. I had zero knowledge of this zoo before I went to Split, I wish I knew. I thought this was going to be a quaint little petting zoo, oh how I was wrong. This zoo costs 10 kuna (€1.30) to enter and I have no idea how this covers the cost of living for these creatures that live in this despicable area. I do visit zoos and I like to support breeding programmes and the educating people on animals but this zoo has none of that. It is dirty and small and the animals look miserable, the warthogs have hair missing, the animals had ZERO fresh produce in their cages. I fed some goats fresh grass and they got very excited. They have one tiger who I wanted to throw myself into the enclosure to give it something to do. I urge you, DO NOT enter this awful excuse for a zoo. It is too small for the amount of creatures and I felt sick walking around it.

In 2014 there were reports of it going to be closed, I don’t know why this hasn’t happened yet but I hope that it happens soon. It is a disgrace!

I definitely recommend Marjan Hill. It is a beautiful location but please do not give the zoo any money because the little amount of money that it gets is not going into building a better environment for these animals.

Happy Travels!

In Austalia: Uluru

Going to Uluru was a really cool experience! If you are travelling all the way to Australia on holiday going to the red centre is a must! When I was there is 2008 there were 5 resorts that you could stay in and we stayed in the Desert Gardens Hotel. PhoebeGill081229674-1

So before I get in to the wonders of Ayers Rock I must tell you that although my pictures look all sunny and wonderful…do you remember that Hurricane Billy I mentioned before, well he was in full swing, it rained every day we were there, torrential rain!

Also please note that Ayers Rock has a lot of bugs, there are different plagues of various creatures that come with the seasons, we just missed the locusts and when we where there, December time, there were giant moths and Christmas stink bugs.

When I say a plague, I mean a disgustingly large amount of bugs everywhere, even in the hotel. The stink bugs would be crawling up the back of chairs, on peoples backs and scurrying around the floor. As the name suggests, if you step on them, the smell is rotten so just ignore them, they are harmless. Moths were on every sign, painting, flat surface you can think of. It is even worse at night. Believe me when I say, it can get really bad, the lights are crawling with every bug you can think of and the lights are in the centre of the paths as you go to your room. Quite off putting. It’s not somewhere I could stay for very long. I would be a shaking mess in the corner. Right, now that that’s out of the way let me get on with the wonder that is Uluru!

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This beautiful sandstone rock in the middle of the Outback is beautiful! It is quite fascinating, think of an Iceberg, most of this rock is underground, we can just see the top. It is 348 meters tall and just under 10km walk around. PhoebeGill081229609-1

The natural erosion is beautiful! Above is the barrel, it is absolutely gorgeous! A big thing I noticed is that in the pictures of Ayres rock it is round, relatively flat and big but in person it is all different heights and bumpy. It also looked like quite a doable hike. I liked that it wasn’t like the postcards I had seen so many times over, I found that it was more interesting and engaging! TIP: buy a net hat. The flies are everywhere and they get in your ears. Buy one, it doesn’t matter how unattractive it is, it is more unattractive twitching and swatting as you try to shoo away the flies. PhoebeGill081229618-2

There are a couple of things I didn’t like about this tour I took, apologies I don’t have any information on what tour I took so you can know before you go but the first thing was that I didn’t like the way the guide used the Indigenous Australians as part of the tour.

About halfway through, two women joined the tour in order for us to get a better understanding of Aboriginal history and culture. Our guide would tell us what happened and their history but looking back as a 23 year old woman who has learnt a little bit more about the world, if I was there now I would want the white man to stop talking and for the people that were shoved into ‘our society’ (ie. into inadequate housing, with little help) to educate us. I still have a very primitive understanding of their history, (one of my favourite films is Rabbit Proof Fence, I recommend you watch it) which I must rectify. Getting back to my point, it felt that these two women were asked to come out in the blistering heat to stand around, answer a couple of questions and then be used for photos. I purposefully didn’t take a photo and I am very glad my 16 year old self refused to use these women. I understand that this interaction benefits both parties in some way but I don’t think of these two women as tourist attractions, they are human beings.

The more I travel and the older I get, the more I don’t always want to hear what someone who has learnt the information from a book, has to say on the matter. If possible I want real accounts, real people, real stories.
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The other, less major thing I didn’t like is that we didn’t go to a lookout point in order to see the rock from a distance. I got my photos, which are terrible, from the bus window.

Anyway, I want to finish this post by saying that my trip was definitely worth it. It is a beautiful, other worldly part of Australia. Couldn’t recommend it enough and am so glad I got the opportunity to see this wonder! Have you been to Ayers Rock? Do you want to go?

Happy Travels!

In Wicklow: Bray Head

I like to start my hikes very early in the morning. Especially in Summer when it is hot and sunny out. I got up at 5:30am to catch the sunrise. As I have mentioned on my facebook I am trying to see more beautiful things during my day. That morning was particularly stunning at 6am, no one is around and it was really peaceful. PhoebeGill150501037

Bray Head is clearly seen from a lot of angles, it’s a hill that is surrounded by amazing cliffs and has some great walks for you to do! There is the Bray to Greystones walk which I have never actually completed and there is the Bray Head Loop.PhoebeGill150501126The path leading up to the top can be both rocky and paved. I always opt for the more uneven, steep path because it’s more fun. There are gorgeous trees and tiny streams that I like hopping over and around. PhoebeGill150501001You can keep going once you reach the top but the last time I did that a fog descended and I went off track and I got a little lost so I recommend you stay on the path and if fog comes down just turn back. PhoebeGill150501046The views from the top are beautiful you can see beautiful hills, all of Bray town and the gorgeous bay. I like sitting at the top under the cross and just taking it all in. PhoebeGill150501099PhoebeGill150501012I recommend you bring proper foot wear as there is a lot of uneven surfaces as you go up, it can also get steep so just be carful of twisting your ankle. It doesn’t take long at all to get to the cross so you don’t need to bring food and water but if it is a hot sunny day then water is a good idea.

This location is a great spot for some exercise and beautiful views. I definitely recommend you stop off here as you start your trip into Wicklow.

Happy Travels!

In Wicklow: Glendalough

In Wicklow: Glendalough

One of my best friends and I went to Glendalough, Co. Wicklow recently. We are both bloggers/youtubers and it is great that we can come together and create and hang out while getting content to show all of you. So here are a few shots from that day.
PhoebeGill150211027There are lots of trails, paths you can go on, I haven’t actually explored all of them yet, I can’t wait to do the top trail, I was waiting for it to become a little bit nicer weather. I will probably make a video of it on my channel some time in the future. 

PhoebeGill150211101Glendalough is a Monastic site, it’s ruins are located near the lower lake. The most well intact and impressive is the round tower a classic site of Glendalough.

PhoebeGill150211118What I love most about this area is the wildlife and the colours. This patch of forest has always been covered in green moss when I go. It is always beautiful.

PhoebeGill150211106In winter the hills and the ground turn brown and will slowly get more colourful as the months go on. There are birds everywhere, it is great to stop and wait by the upper lake to see different species fly around and hear their calls.

PhoebeGill150211109There is something I look for every time I come to Glendalough. The first time I came here, I saw a stag and a doe. They were beautiful and ever since I always keep an eye out in case the deer are hiding in the tall grass. Can you spot the deer in this picture?

PhoebeGill150211162There is also some resident mallards that are always up for being in pictures. 

PhoebeGill150211192Glendalough is a perfect place in Summer or in Winter. I love spending time here all year round. I go on birthdays or days off, if I want some exercise or I take a picnic with some friends. It is a must do in Wicklow. When you visit it you’ll know why they call it the Garden of Ireland.

Happy Travels!PhoebeGill150211033