One of Lisbon’s many jewels, Belém lies peacefully, well if you ignore the tourists, alongside Tagus river…how different it must have been during the Age of Discovery with explorers impatiently embarking onto their long voyages to unknown destinations and adventures, and with it the booming trade bringing the world to Belém…
No exploring on an empty stomach…skipping this bakery and their well-known pastéis would be a capital crime! Pastéis de nata exist all over the world, only these ones, manufactured following an old, and till today, secret recipe from the monastery can be called ‘pastéis de Belém’…did you know that according to Portugese tradition a bride who eats a pastéis will never take off her ring?!
Undisputed leader when it comes to tourist queues…the Unesco-listed monastery, but so worth it! Built for the glory of God, king Manuel I and explorer Vasco da Gama this spectacular building shows an exuberant mix of styles, mixing religious, gothic and manueline/maritime elements. Construction took almost a century and it was built on the site, so the story goes, where Vasco da Gama took off on his voyage to India in 1497. Monks of the St Jerome order provided spirital guidance to all explorers following da Gama’s footsteps and adventures linking the monastery forever to Portugese maritime history…seems only right then that both king Manuel I and Vasco da Gama found their final resting place here where it all began.
Fantastic beasts and where to find them…a place for spiritual guidance and fantasy…
But it’s still a monastery…
Another Unesco monument, Torre de Belém was built to keep port entrance safe and most often it was the last building of their homeland the explorers saw for many, many months or years sailing off. Originally standing in the centre of the Tejo estuary the flow changes made the fortress stand on the river bank now, making it more accessible.
From Torre de Belém a pleasant riverbank walk leads to Padrao dos Descobrimentos…
Designed as a caravel overlooking the sea with Henry the navigator in its prow, this concrete structure was built to mark the 500-year-death of said navigator. Actually it was re-built as another version made of wood and iron in 1940 already existed as part of the Portugese World Exhibition.
Both ramps together show 32 figures that have put their mark some way or another during the Age of Discovery, think cartographers, navigators, warriors, artists, etc…
Many more interesting things to see and do in Belém of course…just check tourist office for more info!
As for accessability, from city centre just take tram or train, our Airbnb Inglesinhas 5 being located close to Cais do Sodre station, train was a fast and easy option.
Hard to believe it has already been a year since we returned from our Southwest USA road trip, a trip that took a lot of planning (and saving) ahead and rewarded us with unerasable memories of magnificent landscapes and road adventures.
In the months after our return I managed to sort out the insane amount of photos taken and composed an old-school photo album with the highlights and ‘best of’ moments however somehow a blogpost on the entire trip seemed not feasible: so many stories, so many interesting places we’ve visited, so many angles…where to start?! Well, I guess at the beginning…
After a very long flight including stopover at Chicago airport we landed in San Francisco. We chose SF to be at the beginning of our tour for several personal practical reasons: doing a road trip is rather exhausting, positioning a citytrip at the end wouldn’t be wise. Exploring SF needed us still fit in body and mind! Then there is the issue of ‘Karl’, Karl the Fog that is…Summer weather in SF can be tricky and for me, it’s just not that much fun ending the holiday in chilly and cloudy weather after spending two weeks in the sun and heat…
We spent four nights in SF and still wasn’t enough to explore all the city has to offer though we got an excellent taste of its variety: we did a cable car ride, explored Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach, did a hop-on/hop-off tour, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, walked Lombard street, did some shopping, joined an Alcatraz night tour,… more on that here Off to prison with a smile…only in San Francisco!
Time to say goodbye to SF and pick-up our rental car…adventure awaits with a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway leading us to Bixby Bridge, the wonderful scenic 17 mile drive and the historic coastal towns Carmel and Monterey where we spent the night.
Strongly recommend, if you can, to spend more than one night here, wish we had too, however our next destination was already in mind and required quite a distance to cover, next stop…Yosemite NP!
Our hotel was located just outside the park, only a short drive to the Park’s entrance immediately rewarding us with jaw-dropping Tunnel View…
Lovely walks in Yosemite Valley, exploring the Falls, a ranger sunset talk at epic Glacier Point overlooking Half Dome…
Leaving Yosemite for our next destination came with a bonus as we had to cross Tioga Pass, with its lovely viewpoints and magical Tenaya lake.
and bonus number two with enchanting Mono Lake being on our route!
Next stop…Death Valley NP!
We have only spent one afternoon, night and early morning here, (taking in mind the high temperatures it is best to plan your sightseeing late afternoons and early mornings) however did give us time to explore some of the highlights the park has to offer: the dunes upon entering, lovely Artists Drive, sunset at Zabriskie point, Badwater, Devil’s Golf Course and the wonderful overview you get from Dante’s View…
…off to thé city of lights…(and noise, every minute, night and day)…viva Las Vegas…though must admit, for us, looking back on the trip now, not really our thing: the contrast when coming from nature’s overwhelming power and beauty is huge and my senses went on overdrive with the combination of heat, noise, lights, hustle and bustle,…we stayed two nights, however one would have been better! Still would leave ample of time to visit some of the casinos of choice, shop and eat!
We did enjoy the tour with the High Roller ferris wheel and the Bellagio fountain show!
As you can guess, we were glad to escape LV madness and submerge ourselves again into nature’s grandeur and boy, we were rewarded big time! Our route to Zion NP allowed us a little detour to Valley of Fire State Park…do not miss this one if you get the chance, you will not regret!
Zion NP to me had it all: the easy walks for those taking it slow (that’s me) the challenging ones for daredevils, water, rocks, green, it is thé perfect combination, everywhere you look, nature plays its dominant and bewitching role…oh, and I got to celebrate my 45th birthday there!
We got some more of the same magic visiting our next destination Bryce NP…hoodoos in all shapes add to the enchanting vibe hiking here, trails for all fitness levels, luckily!
Upon entering state Arizona we had a bit of weather change, lots of clouds, not the best of timing or condition with Antelope Canyon being on the programme, however we were lucky to catch a little glimpse just upon leaving the canyon!
Rain and thunder clouds packing above Horseshoe Bend as if life on the edge isn’t drama enough!
Unstable weather accompanied us the rest of our trip with blue sky one minute and dark thunder clouds and strong sudden winds approaching the next, having only one night to spend in Grand Canyon NP, we weren’t able to check off all the highlights marked on our list, however exploring the West Rim is already a treat for the eyes.
Last stop before flying home…Phoenix…no worries flight home was with a normal airplane!
Well…it’s a wrap…time flies when you’re having fun!
First time we did an overseas road trip of this length in time and distance and overall feeling was more than ok. We did the planning ourselves and took our complete plan and budget to Eric of Inforeizen, who specialises in overseas travels to the US and Africa and tried to match our desires and route as much as possible. Made it easy for us as he handled all the bookings and we had therefore only one contact person in case of questions or problems.
Curious where we stayed? Will list up all the hotels at the end of this post.
Anything we would do differently looking back? Would spend an extra night in Monterey area, extra night in Yosemite, skip Las Vegas as a destination, though it might be interesting as an airport arrival or departure point, if more time and budget include Monument Valley, pack less bagage!
Hope you enjoyed this little tour…going through these photos again, am already planning and dreaming of future adventures, great and small!
‘ I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me’
Though our recent Swiss break was mainly used to recharge those inner batteries and we mostly stayed close to our base of operations and relaxation for the week, Lenk, we did squeeze in a trip to nearby Spiez to get some rivièra vibes!
Spiez is ideally located at the magnificent lake Thun in Bernese Oberland and offers a wide variety of activities and highlights. It is dominated by its medieval castle and the romanesque church that must have been built somewhere in 8th century.
After exploring the castle, the gardens and admiring the outstanding view a walking trail leads to the surrounding vineyards…
S for Spiez, Sylvaner wine, Steep Slopes???
Of course the locals always know the best spots!
Morning walks and breathtaking views makes hungry, so heading down again for a lakeside lunch, which really means ‘lakeside’ and guarantees you a marvellous view at Hotel-Restaurant Riviera by Elio…
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The ferry services and cruises on Lake Thun are a fun means of transport to discover neighbouring lake villages or the larger cities like Thun and Interlaken where you can connect onto lake Brienz for even more water cruising fun. We hopped off at the next village and used the walking path to make our way back to Spiez.
Pyramid shaped house mountain Niessen
the old man and the sea…
Wooden sculptures along the lakeside walking path
may look like rivièra, but we’re still in Switzerland!
Next time more on our little hike to Wallbachschlucht in Lenk and the Simme Waterfall, hope this post gave you a lovely view on versatile Switzerland, land of mountains and glaciers, yes of course…but do not forget to catch some rivièra vibes!
We had already decided last year that this year, holidaywise, would mean an ‘ in-between’ year. Meaning somewhere between home and away, only not too far or too long: tightening those strapping belts around the suitcases, after last year’s expensive, but worth-wile, USA road trip.
Like the cliché says, it’s not where or how far you go, it’s the journey, the experience and Lady Luck clearly decided to grant us some more experiences as both husband and me won a weekend break, how much fun is that?!
Some careful planning and scheduling and must admit the calendar looks quite inviting the next couple of months, and after that, well, we’ll see, first mission is surviving Winter and am extremely looking forward to these up-coming Spring breaks!
End of March we are heading for a b&b near Namur, capital of Wallonia, Belgium. Only heard great stories of those who already visited Namur, so am anxious to explore the city and region ourselves, which might also involve a visit to close-by abbey of Maredsous, well-known for it’s beers and cheeses.
In May, somewhere around Ascension, our wandering feet and hearts will bring us to Lenk in beautiful Swiss Bernese Oberland. Childhood nostalagia for my husband who has visited the region as a child with his family many, many times and since the first time I,myself, laid my eyes on the lush green pastures and lovely mountains covered under their snow blanket, it is also my place to exhale and relax! We were always fortunate with the weather when going in May, so do hope the good luck continues, can’t wait to be there again!
Somewhere in April of early May, still to decide, we’ll be heading for the Dutch city Den Haag (The Hague) and seaside with a stay on the pier of Scheveningen. You can take that litterally as the hotel with it’s Pier suites is located on the far end of the pier and all suites offer private terraces with perfect view on the North Sea which is just at and below your feet, which should be a unique experience.
Think for the next months, in my book and with a little help of Lady Fortune, this is a perfect match of countryside, mountains and sea. A perfect balance between city and nature, time for new experiences and time to exhale! I am ready…
To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.
(Hans Christian Andersen)
It’s like that quote “it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey”.
Some of you already know we just did an amazing three week road trip through southwest USA, starting in San Francisco and ending in Phoenix. Will definitely post some stories and pics of the wonderful places we’ve visited but today it’s all about hitting the road, literally!
As a chronic back-pain patient the miles to cover between each of our destinations had worried me a lot in advance…was not really looking forward to spending four, five and sometimes more hours in the car…but you know what, the driving part, or co-driving in my case, was so much more fun than I could have ever expected! We stopped a lot, we just had to, not only to stretch legs, back and neck, just too many jaw-dropping moments on our routes…many of those stunning views will be imprinted on my retina forever!
Here are some of my favourite road related pics of our trip, hope you enjoy the ride!