Category Archives: Restaurants

One day trip from London to Paris

Last summer I spent 10 days in UK with my teenage son, one of the things we did is took a train to Paris for one day. Here is our itinerary that day:

I always wanted to take a train through the Channel Tunnel – it was on my never ending bucket list…hehe. Make sure you book your train tickets ahead of time because when you purchase them in advance they are a lot cheaper. I purchased our tickets through https://www.eurostar.com I think there is a train that goes to Paris every hour. The distance from London to Paris is about 215 miles and the ride is a little over 2 hours. You will be departing from St. Pancras International to Paris du Nord. If you booked your tickets in advance find one of the ticket kiosk inside the train station and enter your reservation code – your ticket will be printed. Remember that you have to get through customs as UK is not a part of EU so get to the train station at least one hour prior to your departing time. Do not worry if you have extra time left after going through customs and border patrol there are coffee shops inside. Just remember – trains there leave exactly on time.

We truly enjoyed our smooth ride, seats were comfortable and we purchased coffee and fresh croissants in one of the buffet bar that is available to anyone regardless of class.

When we arrived to Paris we went through another border patrol where we received pretty cute stamps inside of our passports. We caught a cab and drove straight to Eiffel Tower, we decided not to go inside and climb to the top as our time was limited in Paris and you have to allocate at least 2 hours for this tour. We walked around Eiffel Tower and grabbed early lunch in the nearby restaurant.

As soon as we finished our meal it was time for our Segway tour, which I booked ahead of time through https://www.fattiretours.com/paris We really like this company as we have used them previously. Christian was thrilled about Segway tour.. what teenager doesn’t like a motorized two wheeled vehicle? We had to take 15 minutes training session before we took off with the small group of people to go sightseeing. We had amazing time, the tour itself is about 2 hours and it takes you around Eiffel Tower, Ecole Militaire (Military Acedemy that was established in 1750), Napoleon’s Tomb, you will pass the Alma tunnel, Princess Diane memorial at the crash site next to River Seine and will make your way through Alexander III Bridge. Christian had a million questions about Military Academy and questioned if the actual remains of Napoleon do really lie beneath of Le Dome des Invalides.

As soon as we finished with the Segway tour we caught another taxi that took us to my favorite place on Earth – Norte Dame de Paris.

There are a lot of things you can do around the Norte Dame of Paris. We walked around the monument and visited the Jean XXIII garden. Around the cathedral you will find small cute restaurants and shops. Grab a glass of wine at one of the oldest restaurants in Paris which opened in 1594 – “Au Vieux Paris”.

Since my son is a huge crepes lover we stopped by one of the coffee shops that sold them and while he was indulging that French covered in chocolate crepe I was sipping on my French wine (win win on my list).

The cathedral is one of the most important sights in Paris and it attracts tons of visitors from around the world. It’s free to go inside of Cathedral just prepare for long lines but they go surprisingly quick. During this particular trip we didn’t have time to visit the top but I have done it in the past and highly recommend to do this. You should arrive 30 minutes before the opening which is 10 am because the line is very long and it goes pretty slow. But the view from the top is definitely worth it – you will have 360 degrees of incredible views of Paris. You will see famous gargoyles and grotesques – we actually wished it was rainy but it wasn’t. From what I’ve heard the cathedral looks magical when all the water from the rain comes out of the gargoyles mouths.

It’s always makes me sad to leave stunning Norte Dame of Paris but I was very excited to meet up with my Richmond friends who happened to be on vacation at the same time in Paris. We took a cab and met them at their apartment. While Christian charged his phone and took one hour power nap we drank some French wine and enjoyed people watching off of the little alley. Time in Paris flew by and we had to say our “see you later”.

We grabbed a cab and off we went to the train station, as I mentioned above make sure you give yourself a good hour to go through boarder patrol and luggage check. After-all it’s better to be earlier than missing your train. Also remember there is one hour difference in time (Paris one hour ahead of London). So our train was departing close to 9:00 pm but we arrived in London around 10:00 pm which wasn’t too bad.

Of course you don’t get to see everything in one day trip but it surely gives you a taste of Paris. As for me any opportunity I get to visit Paris I would take it even if its only for a short period of time.

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Lagos, Portugal

Our Portugal itinerary was super packed but everyone who knows me can testify it’s a normal vacationing for me. It was not easy but I was able to squeeze a one night trip to Lagos (Lagos – pronounced La-goosh in Portuguese) in Algarve (the southernmost region of Portugal, known for its amazing beaches). We started our day super early (6:00 am) and took a train from Lisbon Oriente to Lagos.

(Oriente train station)

It was pretty ride and it took us about 3 hours to reach Tunes station where we had to switch trains. We waited for about 30-40 minutes for our next train which was very slow by the way (took another hour or so). Finally we reached our final destination – beautiful Lagos. Be prepared the train station is somewhat small and there were no taxis available nor were we able to locate any Ubers. We dragged our enormous amounts of luggage to the main road and I was lucky enough to spot a taxi. So if you can plan ahead for your pick up I suggest you do that.

We stayed at Aqualuz Suite Hotel and we loved the location as you could walk everywhere and the pool area was nice, the staff was very friendly and accommodating (we checked in early and checked out late without paying extra). But the way it was built it reminded us some sort of maze or labyrinth- let’s just say it took us forever to find exit.

https://www.aqualuzlagos.com/en/hotel-overview.html

After we dropped our luggage we had no time to waste and proceeded to the nearest beach – which happened to be Praia Donna Ana (about 15 minutes walking from our hotel). On the way to the beach we stopped for lunch – I highly recommend the rooftop restaurant at Carvi Beach Hotel. We grabbed table outside and just enjoyed the views. Our server was super nice and we really liked our food.

https://www.facebook.com/CarviAlgarve/

After we had lunch we walked down to the beach – so just to let you know most of the beaches we went had tremendous amounts of stairs. Praia Donna Ana happened to have only 100 steps down and it was very intimate and not too big of a beach. We walked around and snapped some photos. I can’t even describe the beauty of that place – I felt like we stepped into a paradise.

After our visit to the beach we decided to explore the town itself. Lagos is a small city so you can walk pretty much anywhere, just prepare to wear comfortable shoes as some of the roads were either up or down the hills. We made our way through winding streets covered in mosaic to a marina. I wish I had enough time to do some gifts and souvenir shopping because they had market filled with local vendors.

We grabbed a coffee and a glass of wine at the main square, its a little charming square with lots of cafes and the sculpture of the Boy King (Dom Sebastiao) in the middle of it.  That evening we had dinner at the restaurant inside of our resort as we all felt the sunburnt and tired (but definitely satisfied).

Next morning my husband and I woke up very early as we planned to have a mini photo shoot on the beach. While our teenager enjoyed his nice sleeping in we were walking down to Praia Donna Ana. What a beautiful and amazing surprise it was when we learned that we were the only ones at the beach. There was not even one foot print on the sand and the entire beach was our playground.

Later that morning all three of us decided to explore another nearby beach. We walked for about 30-40 minutes until we reached Praia do Camilo. This beach is very secluded, if you travel by car there is nice parking lot. We were blown away by the beauty of this beach – we probably stood a good 10-15 minutes on the top of the cliff just eyeing the surroundings. Water looked crystal clear and numerous grottoes made that place look absolutely magical. I should also mention that the entire time both of my men seriously were contemplating to alter the rest of our trip and just stay in Lagos till the end of our vacation.

We heard that Praia do Camilo is one of the best beaches in Lagos for snorkeling (maybe one summer when the waters warm enough we can do that). Ok let’s talk about the access to the beach. I consider myself very physically fit person whose gym routine consists of mandatory 20 minutes stair-master warm up however… these were some extremely challenging-stairs. It definitely was a good morning exercise to go up and down these steps.

Highly suggested place for lunch was the restaurant Camilo, it’s famous for its fresh fish and it’s right off the entrance to the beach. It was a bit early in the morning when we explored so the restaurant was unfortunately closed.

http://restaurantecamilo.pt/en/

That afternoon we decided to grab some snacks, cold drinks and enjoy the beach so we went back to the closest to our resort beach – Praia Donna Ana and had absolutely amazing afternoon.

Things to enjoy in Lagos:

Take a stroll along a coastline of Lagos, there are many paths with absolutely gorgeous views.

Go into old town and enjoy walk through small cobblestone streets. During our walk we stumbled upon The Castle of Lagos, also known as Castelo dos Governadores (The Governors Castle) and Moorish walls that are going back to the 16th century.

Wander through endless shops, restaurants and bars or simply sip some sangrias or wine and people watch. Few interesting facts: alcohol was cheaper then water and servers would bring you some small dishes before you even get a chance to look at the menu and leave them at your table. We learned that they are not free and you will be charged for them so if you are on the budget make sure you tell the server at the beginning you do not want them.

(One of the fun bars in Lagos)

You can wander through many vendor tents at a marketplace near marina and get souvenirs or gifts made by locals.

Walk down to the main beach in the downtown area (Praia da Batata) – it is absolutely beautiful. On your way there is the historic beachfront fortress of Ponta da Bandeira, it was used to guard Lagos by protecting the river from attack.

I cant believe we only stayed one night in this absolutely stunning place but we are coming back!!!! As we drove away from this magical place, we all felt sad. We definitely found our little paradise! If you traveling to Portugal then Lagos is a must-visit!!! I would love to hear your stories.

If you want to fly out from Lagos you have to make your way to Faro airport which is about an hour away by taxi but you can take train or bus as well – airport has plenty connections.

Porto, Portugal

Porto is the second largest Portuguese city. Its vibrant nightlife, delicious food and wine, Romanesque architecture will leave you satisfied. Porto is UNESCO listed city and it feels so much slower than Lisbon. I noticed that there are not as many tourists on the streets and it gave you that feeling of peacefulness. The best way to explore Porto is by foot – its small in size so you can get to all the major attractions walking.

We stayed in the Ribeira district which is the old town of Porto on the northern side of the river and one of the hilliest places I have ever visited. The entire area is filled with medieval cobblestone narrow streets and cute little restaurants, shops and bars.

Tips:

  • Have something to eat or drink along the river. There are so many colorful picturesque houses with balconies. We had coffee and pastries one morning there and just enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere. It is great spot to people watch and you can see boats go up and down the river. Also, it is best place to see the iconic Luis bridge.

  • We took a boat tour which was in the same area. It was about one hour ride up and down the Douro, you get to see city and learn about 7 bridges of Porto. I believe we paid 15 euros per person – it was rainy day when we did it so I wish it wasn’t so we would enjoy sitting on the deck instead of inside.

  • Take a ride on a Funicular dos Guindais – it was built in 1891. It takes you from Batalha to Ribeira in just few minutes but its enough time to see beauty of Douro river and Luiz bridge.  Tickets are 2.5 euros one way and you purchase them at Funicular.  https://en.metrodoporto.pt/pages/436
  • You should definitely take time to walk across Dom Luis I Bridge. This bridge was completed in 1886 and it consists of the top deck which is reserved for pedestrians and city’s metro and the lower deck for the cars. It comes as no surprise when you learn that the bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel. We took spectacular walk (get your camera ready because the views are incredible) and we ended up on another side of that bridge -Vila Nova de Gaia. It is a city on the south bank and it famous for its port cellars and where all the port wine tasting takes place. For 100 years that was a place were barrels of wine and port were loaded and unloaded.

  • As soon as we walked off the bridge we took a cable car ride (Teleférico de Gaia), its pretty quick ride but enough to see port warehouses, and beautiful Ribeira in its folded glory.  We bought tickets on site and there was no line, both way ticket was 9 euros.   http://www.gaiacablecar.com/Teleferico_UK.html

(View from the cable car)

  • We learned that if you want to eat good food most of the times you need to make reservations. We were given few recommendations by our local hosts. We picked restaurant Reitoria, the ground floor has cute outside and it serves tapas and second floor where we made our reservation was a steakhouse. We really enjoyed our dinner and wine, Wagyu-Escocia was absolutely delicious and their freshly baked focaccia caseira was yummy http://www.reitoria.pt/
  • The other highly recommended restaurant was Cantina 32 -it is Portuguese’s cuisine with a modern twist. Unfortunately we were unable to make reservations on time :(. http://www.cantina32.com/
  • Grab table outside of Mercador cafe for breakfast and you can people watch. This cafe is in the middle of the cute street, Rua das Flores. We enjoyed coffees and homemade pastries.  https://www.facebook.com/mercadorcafe/

(The last two photos are from some random wine bar we stumbled upon)

  • Plan to visit Livraria Lello as it is a must see spot in Porto. It’s the oldest bookshop in the world and if you are a huge Harry Potter fan rumor has it that J.K. Rowling was inspired by it to write the books. I suggest to buy your voucher ahead of time on their website (see below) its 5 euros per person and its totally deductible on the purchase of a book. Prepare to wait in line or you can try to visit library early in the morning during the week. We went on a rainy day and you can only imagine that everyone else had the same plan, we still enjoyed our visit and even caught little performance though it was in Portuguese it was very entertaining. https://www.livrarialello.pt/en-us/products/online-voucher?returnurl=%2fen-us%2fproducts%2f

  • After your visit Livraria Lello you should walk to A igreja dos Carmelitas Descalços (baroque Portuguese  church). We regret not going inside but the entrance is free, I just wish we hadn’t been soaking wet from the rain that day.

  • Allocate yourself one solid day to just wander around and you would be surprised where you going to end up… we happened to discover the most beautiful sights on our unplanned walk in the town.

I fell in love with Porto, the city of bridges, lots of hills and wonderful wine – it’s definitely a place to visit again on my list. The food is awesome, wine is amazing, the breathtaking views of Ribeira district never gets old and you meet the most friendliest people who treat you as you were a long time friends. Time seems to have stopped when we wandered around the streets full of little details and hidden beauty – till next time Porto.

Armazem was one of the places we stumbled upon and it was just a treasure. It’s a vintage shop with a cutest bar that serves great wine and tasty tapas. Of course we didn’t leave empty handed.

https://www.facebook.com/armazem93/

Lisbon, Portugal

Portugal was always on the top of my bucket list to visit. This country is no longer Europe’s secret place as more and more people are visiting Portugal every year. It’s still relatively cheap and under traveled if you compare it with the rest of Europe. This blog is about our Spring break trip to Portugal and the memories we made, hopefully I can inspire some of my readers to visit this colorful and beautiful country.

We arrived to sunny but chilly Lisbon at 6:00 am and since we booked our apartment through Airbnb we could not check in earlier than 2:00 pm nor could we drop our luggage there. I did some research prior to our arrival and took advice from our Portuguese hosts and we ended up at The Rossio Railway Station.Train station itself was a very beautiful building that did not look like a train station from the outside. We rented storage lockers inside and off we went to explore Lisbon.

It was very early Easter Saturday morning and while locals were still in bed and tourists didn’t make their way out on the streets yet – it was time for us to start the day. We walked outside of the Rossio station and immediately our eyes caught the sight of the castle on the top of the hill overlooking the entire city. We decided to make our way to the São Jorge Castle. São Jorge Castle is a Moorish castle occupying a commanding hilltop overlooking the historic centre of Lisbon and Tagus River.

At this point we were on our +24 hours of no sleep but either the cup of Portuguese freshly brewed coffee or crispy fresh air or excitement of finally being here kept us going – just a note for future travelers all the roads seems to be up the hill wear comfy shoes. The walk was absolutely beautiful it seemed like we were alone making our way through tiny wiggly narrow streets – I think I stopped million times to take photos of the door knobs, colorful tiles on the walls of the buildings…there was never ending sights… finally we made it to the very top…

Lisbon really impressed me – it was very charming city but totally had that personality edge to it. You have to remember that most of Lisbon was destroyed during the earthquake in 1755 and subsequent fires and tsunami so it has that share of neglect but it somehow makes the city more complete.  Lisbon is known for tiled houses, hilltop views, cobblestone streets, vintage trams, and food!

The part of exploring any country or any city is to eat your way around it so Lisbon is not exception. It had everything from sweet Nata pastries to great cod dishes. Lisbon is definitely a food and wine lovers’ paradise. What I noticed is that Lisbon is packed with restaurants and cafes – there should be no problem for you to find a place to dine however try to avoid the overpriced touristy places (we were trapped the first night since we were in the heart of the touristy location)

Here are few suggestions:

Best seafood in Lisboa is definitely at Cervejaria Ramiro (we later learned that Anthony Bourdain visited this place in 2012). Be prepared to wait to get in (we waited for about 45 min or so) but we grabbed a bottle of wine and chatted with people in the waiting area – time flew by.

http://www.cervejariaramiro.pt/?lang=en

We really enjoyed Clube de Fado restaurant that we went specifically to listen fado but were pleasantly surprised with delicious food they served.

https://www.clube-de-fado.com/

Enjoy Time Out Market for lunch – this place will satisfy any person’s taste. All three of us had different dish and we loved it. The other part that I enjoyed about this market is how inviting it is to start conversation with strangers. We loved getting to know the couple sitting next to us (she was from New Zealand and he was from England) we sipped wine while listening to each other’s stories.

https://www.timeoutmarket.com/lisboa/en/

Grab a glass of wine and order appetizer at Topo Chiado with the castle in the background, and Lisbon’s famous Santa Justa Lift on its doorstep.

https://www.facebook.com/topolisboa/

If you feel nostalgic – grab burgers and beer at Hamburgeria A Gina

https://www.facebook.com/Hamburgueria.a.Gina/?utm_source=tripadvisor&utm_medium=referral

The next 3 days flew by so quickly it felt like the blink of an eye. Here are the sights we visited

Sintra – less than an hour away by train, we took the train at Rossio station for 2.5 euros (train goes every hour so you don’t need to buy tickets in advance)

Belém Tower or the Tower of St Vincent

I wish we had more time in this beautiful city – Lisbon you definitely won our hearts. It’s not goodbye it’s see you later ❤