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!

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In Iceland: Southern Region

The South will always be popular whatever time you go and there is a good reason why. I have been in January and in September and each time it has been beautiful. I wanted to get a different angle on some old spots and finally get to some places that I have wanted to go for long time.

Svínafellsjökull Glacier

PhoebeGill170417102I love this glacier, you can walk alongside it, take a seat and listen to the creaking ice. I had to fly the drone above the fissures and try and get closer to the source of the glacier, it is miles away so that didn’t happen but it’s stunning none the less. PhoebeGill170417187

Diamond Beach

I have taken pictures of this beach from the ground but from above it is one of the most beautiful sights. I think this is one of my favourite shots from my trip. PhoebeGill170422028

Jökulsárlón

Again I have taken many shots from the edge of the glacier but from above it is incredible. You can see the seals, huge icebergs and all the seagulls swooping below. I could honestly fly the drone over this area all day if I had enough batteries! PhoebeGill170422152

Fjaðrárgljúfur

This river canyon is a great site to visit, you can walk up to the top of the canyon and get great views of the river and the surrounding area. It gets very popular for a spot that doesn’t have great signage. PhoebeGill1704221131.jpg

Dyrhólaey

PhoebeGill170423017I have seen a lot of people sitting on the edge of this cliff however knowing my luck I’d fall off and be lost forever so I just flew the drone and sat in the sun. This was the first day where I didn’t need loads of layers and gloves, it was perfect. PhoebeGill1704231924

Gljúfrabúi

PhoebeGill170423159One of my last stops was back to the not so hidden waterfall. Unlike before, this time I was going in and I am very happy I did.There is something so wonderful about getting so close to a waterfall, blinded by the rushing water, getting soaked. Not staying too long because your cameras are going to get waterlogged. Can you tell I was happy? PhoebeGill170422001Iceland is somewhere you can go time and time again and you will find incredible things to do. I might not be back for a while but till next time Ísland.

Happy Travels!

In Iceland: Northern Region

I was on my way to the Westfjords, a section wild beauty in the north west of Iceland, I had so many spots on my list I wanted to go to but the weather was not going to be my friend. I drove through whiteouts and ice to get to the one road that was open, where it would lead, was the Arctic Fox centre. I was determined. My determination however, means nothing to nature who had a different plan for me. When I arrived at the road I found a barrier closed across it and red flashing lights telling me my dream was dashed.

I had two choices, set up camp in an N1 petrol station outside Hólmavík. A place that could only be described as barren, a place where the truckers of Iceland were stopping before heading on. One of whom waved at me…that was my cue to leave. The second option was to drive 111 kms to anywhere that wasn’t void of humans. I eventually found a place to rest for the night, the shining beacon of wonder, with running water and food, the N1 – Staðarskáli. Again, I don’t think it’s ok to camp at petrol stations but I think it was pretty evident that lots of people needed a place to stop for the night. As I have said many times before, be more organised than me. PhoebeGill170420550

Akureyri

The next morning was the first day of Summer and it was snowing. Perfect. It was time to head east and the first stop was Akureyri. Now I think I spent maybe twenty minutes in this city but I watched a plane take off and ate a hotdog so it was pretty ok. There is a viewpoint on the other side of the fjord. Which gives you a great view of the city with the mountains in the background. PhoebeGill170420553

Goðafoss

Continuing on my journey I arrived at the next waterfall, this area doesn’t look like much but just off the road is Goðafoss, a beautiful, powerful 30 meter wide pool. It was freezing, the spray was chilling and it was raining but the colour of the water still made me want to jump in.PhoebeGill170420644

Mývatn

I was cooking potatoes in the back of the car to avoid strong winds and hailstones when I saw a massive snow cloud moving fast past the window. I decided to follow it and what I found was amazing. I came upon a frozen lake, Lake Mývatn. When you are diving around in April you will see snow and beauty but for some reason this area feels like you are on a different planet.PhoebeGill170421030It was freezing but the wind was manageable and the snow had stopped so it was drone time. This area is disorientating from the ground, it’s a sea of lava rock covered in snow but it is awe inspiring from above. Seeing the snowy surrounds with the frozen lake was breathtaking. If my battery allowed it I would have flew all evening. PhoebeGill170421123There are a number of things you can see, if you are staying at a local guesthouse they will have maps will all the information you could want but two that I recommend are Grjótagjá cave, I think it should be something you experience for yourself but bring your bathing suit. The other spot that is amazing is Hverfjall, a kilometer wide volcano, in the colder months when there is still snow on the face of the volcano it is absolutely incredible! I had so much fun driving around the lake when the fluffy snow arrived it was time for me to move on. PhoebeGill170421034

Jarðböðin við Mývatn

When you drive a little further it’s as if you’ve left the other world and arrived back in Iceland, back to it’s geothermal land and patchy snow. Just past Lake Mývatn there is a blue lagoon of the north, the Mývatn nature baths, I didn’t go but it might be a bit easier to get into than the Blue Lagoon. You will find the turn for the Mývatn nature baths just before a similar turquoise pool, if you go past it, you’ve gone too far. PhoebeGill170421168

Hverarönd

Has your ma ever made egg sandwiches? Well that is what this area smells like, the sulphuric land is bubbling and emitting a strong odour but it is well worth stopping the car to check it out. The site would be amazing for a photoshoot, with it’s barren yellow landscape and billowing steam from the earth. It’s pretty incredible! PhoebeGill170421809

Dettifoss

There are certain points during a road trip where you have to take a chance and see if it goes well. There are two roads you can take to get to Dettifoss, one of them was closed and the other I feared would close soon, so I drove, kept going, through icy patches and wind I got to the car park. However that’s just the beginning. They clear the roads but they don’t clear the tourist spots. PhoebeGill170420732The wind was the strongest it had been in a while, rain was freeing in the air and pelting you in the face. Walking through with snow coming up to your knees, with hills and slippery stones, it might not be the best place to bring your granny but it is always worth it when you get to the final destination. Dettifoss is incredible, it’s supposed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe and it feels like it. The sound of it’s falls still echos in my ears, coming upon this amazing sight was something that wont be forgotten any time soon. PhoebeGill170420740Driving in the North was beautiful, awe inspiring and so much fun but I know I didn’t spend long enough frolicking in the snow. There are so many stunning spots along the road to stop and take amazing pictures. This part of Iceland is perfect for self driving and if you can get up to the North it is so worth taking the time to enjoy it. You wont regret it.

Happy Travels!PhoebeGill170421165

 

In Iceland: Western Region

The Western Region is just above Reykjavik and below the Westfjords. Snæfellsnes peninsula is the main point of interest with some amazing places to visit. I love it, I keep finding myself gravitating to the same places over and over again because they are just stunning.

Hraunfossar

This was my first stop on the drive around the Western region. This beautiful waterfall is powerful and peaceful however, it is quite popular with tour busses and you might find that you’re in the midst of a big group of tourists.

Driving around the Snæfellsnes peninsula should be on your list of things to do if you are going to Iceland for a week. The south is amazing but there is something about this area that is so gorgeous, if you aren’t into staying in Reykjavik longer than a day then try get here.

Búðakirkja

PhoebeGill170418165With the infamous black church, a small but picturesque sight. Stunning mountains, lava fields and look out points, there is so many things you can see and do. Driving around and exploring you can get the most amazing images.

Vatnshellir Cave

I am very annoyed that I didn’t visit this site, I love caves, they are dark and cool in temperature and bats live there. I just love them. I have no idea if it is good but for more information you can find it here. 

PhoebeGill170419247

Arnarstapi

This small fishing village on the south of the peninsula is absolutely beautiful and is so photogenic it’s crazy. With a stunning coastal walk, amazing rock formations and strong waves, this place is a must see.

 

Where to Stay?

The small yet lovely town of Grundarfjörður on the north side of the peninsula. I stayed in the Old Postoffice Gusthouse, a wonderful place to stay for a night before you set off on another adventure. The rooms are very comfortable with a clean shared bathroom. I think I paid €79 for a single room but got upgraded as it was quiet in the guesthouse and got an amazing view of Kirkjufell! If you want to know more about the mountain find it here.nvjh.jpg

Happy Travels!

In Iceland: Renting a Car with GoCampers

Driving in Iceland is a must, seeing this amazing country at your own pace is something I will always recommend. I have used KuKu campers before, if you want to see my review click here. I wasn’t going to use them again and I also wanted a 4×4 so I went on to GoCamper. PhoebeGill170417107I chose the new 4×4 camper, a Mitsubishi Pajero and I have to say I love this car. It is a lot of fun to drive and it’s really spacious inside. I forgot to take a picture of the inside but there is everything you could need. Pots, pans, utensils, a little gas cooker, a cooler box and a heater. The only thing that didn’t work was the mp3 system didn’t work with Spotify, which isn’t a big deal. PhoebeGill170425006-1I spent 10 days in the car and it cost me €2490. €249 euro a day seems quite expensive and of course you can get a cheaper camper out there but for a car and accommodation, it’s not too bad. I am very happy I got the 4×4. As I was April, there were roads in the north that were icy and I was driving in whiteouts but I still felt very safe in the car. PhoebeGill170425006-2Do I recommend GoCampers? Yes, I definitely recommend the new 4×4 as it’s a great car to drive, it has lots of room, everything you could need. Also GoCampers offer a free transfer to your hotel after you drop back the car which is very helpful. PhoebeGill1704241990I had so much fun driving around Iceland and this car made it so easy and I felt really safe. It also looks great! I would love to be back in Iceland in the Pajero, till next time.

Happy Travels!

In Riga: The Waterfront

Any city by the water is usually somewhere I like to be. There is something great about sitting by the waters edge watching the swell. Riga’s waterfront is a nice open space with some great spots along the way. PhoebeGill170318290.jpgFirst things first, take a walk down the River Daugava. The promenade feels like a new addition to the waterfront compared historic old town and the more unmanicured look throughout the city. Along this walk you get a view of the National Library, this modern, 13 story institution opened in 2014 and is incredibly important to Riga. Along with modern buildings you get to see the trains pass on the railway. I don’t know what it is with rail systems but they are quite calming to me. I can imagine this promenade in Summer is a great place to take a picnic and soak up the sun.PhoebeGill170317135If you are an avid reader, you will know I love viewpoints and will actively climb the hundereds of steps and peer over he nauseatingly high rail to look at the small passers by. If you want a view of the city and the river you have to go to the Institute of Science, its €5 entry and you get a stunning panoramic view of Riga. You get a great view of Old Town and the entire river.  PhoebeGill170318284You can see all the main sites of The city, Riga castle, St Peters Church, Riga cathedral, central market and TV Tornis. The radio and television tower is the highest building in the Baltics. It too has a viewpoint so you can see Riga from a different perspective. PhoebeGill170318256Along the waterfront is the big Central Market. It is the biggest indoor market in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I love wandering around food markets, it gives you a great idea of the food culture of a country. Not only that but at the back of the tunnels is your classic marketing of second hand goods and clothing, it really is the place to go to wander around and spot some real tat! PhoebeGill170318266In each tunnel there is a different food group, the first is all smoked and fresh fish. If you don’t have sea legs the smell will be a bit overwhelming. I used to get brought to markets all the time so you get used to the smell. The second is all fresh fruit and vegetables. Everything looks amazing in this section, so much colour and variety! Potatoes and apples were in abundance.  The last tunnel is bread and meat. Their favourite it seems would be rye bread, my father loves rye bread so I imagined him being very happy with the cuts of pork with a good bit of fat and the dark bread.  PhoebeGill170317081It’s definitely somewhere you have to go when you go to Riga. It really great to see the sellers have pride in their stalls and all the different elements of food. If I was staying longer or had an AirBnB I would definitely stock up on fresh food! PhoebeGill170317076Riga was a really nice break away, I found it’s sad and traumatic history is still reflected in the cold aspects of the city, people aren’t overly friendly, there isn’t much modern builds and although I had some odd experiences with some people during my short time in the capital I would recommend Riga to anyone.

Happy Travels!