Sunday, 12 August 2018

A Day Trip to Berlengas



Localizado a cerca de 10km de distância do Cabo Carvoeiro, o arquipélago das Berlengas é composto por 3 grupos de ilhéus: Berlenga Grande e recifes adjacentes, Estelas e Farilhões-Forcadas, todas de natureza geológica diferente da costa continental próxima. A Berlenga Grande, com 4km de perímetro, apresenta a forma de um "8" recortado por numerosas reentrâncias. A parte mais considerável da ilha, situada a oeste, chama-se simplesmente "Berlenga" e compreende dois terços da superfície total da ilha. A outra parte, a leste, separada da primeira por um estrangulamento resultante da erosão marítima sobre uma importante falha geológica, é a "Ilha Velha".

Devido à sua localização geográfica, a Berlenga benefícia de dois tipos de influências climáticas: a atlântica, nas áreas mais exposta a norte, e a mediterrânica, nas expostas a sul. Isto proporcionou ao arquipélago características faunisticas e florísticas que fizeram dele um ecossistema único, tanto a nível marinho como terrestre. Por isto, as Berlengas integram a Rede Nacional de Áreas Protegidas, constituindo uma Reserva Natural e é ainda considerada Reserva Mundial da Biosfera da UNESCO, tendo o mais antigo estatuto de protecção integral de que há memória, desde 1465 com o rei Afonso V.


Confesso que estava ligeiramente apreensiva em relação à viagem em si e tinha ouvido que as gaivotas eram problemáticas mas todos esses receios revelaram-se em vão. Saímos de Lisboa às 8h com tempo nublado e chegámos a Peniche um pouco antes das 9h30. Fizemos a travessia para as Berlengas pela companhia Berlenga Live às 10h00 (com regresso às 15h00) e apesar de ter sido uma viagem com solavancos uma pessoa acaba por se habituar. Sabem aquelas montanhas russas suavezinhas nos parques de diversões? É mais ou menos a mesma coisa.

Claro está, português que é português tem sempre aquele atrasozinho ou não seríamos conhecidos pelo nosso "quarto de hora académico". Não saímos exactamente às 10h com as pessoas a entrar e acomodarem-se no barco mas diria que a viagem durou cerca de meia hora entre Peniche e a ilha, com paragem para apreciação do Cabo Carvoeiro. Tivemos algum tempo para recuperar dos solavancos da viagem até à ilha no "Bairro dos Pescadores", na encosta sul da "Ilha Velha", e às 11h tivemos novo barco à espera para vermos as grutas da ilha, passeio incluído no bilhete que tínhamos pago. Um barco diferente do que nos tinha levado, com fundo de vidro, fez-nos o tour pelas grutas e vimos a cabeça do Elefante, a Cova do Sono onde os pescadores antigamente prenoitavam por se situar na zona sul e não ser atingida pelos ventos fortes vindos do norte, a Gruta da Flandres, a Gruta Azulo Furado Pequeno onde apenas podem atravessar barcos pequenos e com muito cuidado por ser tão estreita e devido à corrente, e atravessámos a gruta do Furado Grande que atravessa a ilha de um lado ao outro, num túnel com 70 metros de comprimento.


Fomos deixados no Forte de São João Baptista para que pudessemos fazer o trajecto de volta a pé e conhecer a ilha. Este forte foi ordenado por D. João IV para servir de fortaleza na ilha, com o objectivo de reforçar a defesa da cidadela de Peniche. Em 1835 foi desartilhada, o que levou ao seu gradual abandono mas na década de 50 do século XX foi restaurada para posterior adaptação do espaço a pousada, o que se verifica hoje em dia. Facto curioso: não há canalização de água quente no forte por isso as pessoas deixam os garrafões ao sol o dia todo e, no final do dia, tomam banho com essa água quente.

Depois de visitarmos o forte seguimos pelo Trilho das Berlengas, sempre a subir até atingirmos o planalto da ilha (o que, com sol e calor do meio dia acaba por não ser a actividade mais fácil e envolve algumas paragens para descansar). Virando à esquerda temos acesso às Cisternas e à parte mais a oeste da ilha. Seguindo para a direita vamos ter até ao Farol do Duque de Bragança, com 29m de altura e cuja construção data desde 1841, durante o reinado de D. Maria II. A luz emitida pode ser vista a mais de 50 km de distância, um feito impressionante, considerando que a estrutura usa apenas energia solar e baterias. Como o farol se localiza no ponto mais elevado da Berlenga Grande, a partir daí a viagem é sempre a descer, passando pelo Carreiro dos Cações até ao Bairro dos Pescadores.

É possível acedermos à praia desde o Bairro dos Pescadores mas é um areal pequeno para tanta gente (e a água estava ligeiramente fria) e a ilha tem muito pouca sombra para quem não quer fazer praia. Como fomos no final Julho, apanhámos sol forte o suficiente para me provocar um escaldão apesar de ter posto três vezes mais protector solar que o grupo enquanto almoçávamos e aguardávamos pelo barco de regresso. Recomendo absolutamente uma visita às Berlengas, especialmente durante o Verão, mas aconselho que levem marmitas porque o único restaurante/bar da ilha acaba por inflaccionar bastante os preços devido à falta de concorrência. Para não variar, as fotos aqui são apenas uma pequena amostra, se ficaste com curiosidade podes sempre ir ao meu Instagram.

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Saturday, 28 July 2018

A No-Maj Ponders Potter: The Deathly Hallows (part 1)


My godson is back for the penultimate post of his journey through the Harry Potter films! This time he brings us his review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 (2010)!

If you thought that stuck up kid thinking he's the strongest magician of them all was already annoying, then get ready for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows!

For those of you who, like myself, have been slightly annoyed by these films right from the start because they're based on a spoiled child who thinks he's better that everyone, maybe perhaps you shouldn't even look at this 2010 film since we're not even fifteen minutes into the movie and we already have nothing less than 6 Harry Potters. What happens is that, being a minor, Harry can be watched by the ministry and, to continue his journey fighting against Voldemort, it's necessary that his location isn't known. So 5 of his friends drink a potion that makes them look like him. This film not only causes a certain distress because of this multiplication of Potters but afterwards we still have to deal with the clones as each one retains its original voice tone. I didn't realize if the potion worked or if this is the worst disguise of the century, since if anyone has the idea of talking to them, the disguise is quickly figured out.

Suddenly, they all start to flee and I get even angrier because they disturb the lives of the poor people who don't go around casting spells. Someone is on the street minding their bussiness, living their life, and suddenly about fifteen witches street race past them. I had heard stories that there's always an uncle in the countryside who takes his nephew in the car or the tractor so he can see how good it is to drive and there are usually accidents. I just didn't expect this to happen to both Harry and Hagrid: drive the wrong way on a freeway with a side-car while competing with Voldemort's henchmen. At some point, Hagrid falls asleep while driving! Actually, if at the beginning of the saga someone asked me to take a guess on who'd drive on the wrong side of the street, I would place my bet on Dumbledore, given his advanced age and how elders are much more likely to have for this kind of "adventures". I didn't expect Harry Potter to be introduced to the world of illegal racing by a drunk and sleepy Hagrid, since he even looked like a nice giant.

At the end of the race I expected to see the pimped brooms and the losers paying their bets, maybe one or two punches from being sore losers, but all you see are all the Harry Potters going back to their original bodies at Ron's. We learn that the Mad-Eye was killed, no wonder. I wasn't too sad because the clones idea was his own. Ron, Harry and Hermione have to flee after an attack and go to London to infiltrate the ministry of magic disguised as officials. They manage to steal a Horcrux, a necklace from Professor Dolores, but they are discovered and have to flee to a forest where they practice shooting at the object to destroy the third fragment of Voldemort's soul. Since they are unsuccessful, Harry puts it around the neck to guard it, but he becomes extremely ill-disposed and cranky. I've had the same thing with wool sweaters because of the itching, there are clothes and accessories of very poor quality nowadays. They can annoy even the calmest person. We realized that Voldemort had saved up on his Horcruxes and probably went to Claire's to buy the necklace and the ring. Dumbledore had already complained about the poor quality of that pinchbeck and I even remember having a very annoying allergy in one of his hands.

The three friends walk out of the forest and it's not very clear where to, but as they show the tent where they live in different landscapes they also show a very serious Ron while the background music becomes more audible, this is the scenic sila for "he's up to something". And he was. At nightfall he fussed over Harry and got all pissed off, leaving the tent with a backpack. Fortunately, he returns soon after and he's the one who saves the Harry from drowning and who destroys the Horcrux with a beautiful sword swing! They all go to Luna's house, where they learn what the deathly hallows are and they get trapped, there is a battle and Dobby dies. He's killed by that witch who killed Sirius Black.

As always, here my opinion about certain characters:
Dumbledore: He was more useful dead in one movie than in four alive! Although Harry Potter expected a heirloom in cash and the Elder Wand, that pool ball will be much more useful and, together the objects the three friends received, will help finding the remaining Horcruxes!

Harry Potter: Although Harry is older and therefore less annoying than at the beginning of the series I still think one is enough.

Ron: I warned since the beginning that Ron needs to stop getting into Harry's problems and this time it seemed like he listened to me for a moment but then regretted it and went back.

The Good: They are always a step behind Voldemort, they didn't take advantage while he was in people's bald heads and now they're paying the price. While Voldemort was a fungus they might as well have sprayed someone's head with medicine for the lice or when he was a gecko someone should have stepped on him but now it's too late!

The Bad: Bellatrix is ​​much more evil than Voldemort, if the hakehead doesn't start to pay attention the bad side may elect another CEO.

In conclusion: one of the best movies in the saga! It's very well structured and finally has a guiding line of action: the search and destruction of the Horcruxes. While some of the previous titles seemed to be guided by what the characters thought about doing, there is finally an action plan. Nice movie, yes sir.

Don't miss the next review on the second part of the Deathly Hallows! If you haven't yet read the previous ones you can find them here:

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Sunday, 15 July 2018

20 Struggles of Wearing Glasses


Some might think of glasses as a fashion statement but those lucky people are blessed to forget some people actually need glasses to see the world around them. This past week I was looking at some Instagram stories and got to one of Sónia's about how naïve people with little to no diopters, a fancy way of measuring someone's blindness level, are. So that got me inspired. As someone who has been wearing glasses for almost 20 years (which is about 70% of my entire life) I feel highly qualified to bring forward the problems of having to wear glasses. In all honesty, this post is also a way for me to vent.

I was destined to have myopia and my childhood was molded by it. I didn't wear contact lenses until almost adulthood and back in early 2000's, when I started wearing them, wearing glasses wasn't in at all. Actually, I would love it if someone could explain to me how not being able to see properly got into fashion. I get the sunglasses part, don't get me wrong. But why, why would you wear glasses with no lens graduation if you don't actually need them? When did being blind become the new in?

So without further ado, let me just enumerate a few problems common to everyone who has over 5 diopters and clearly everyone else doesn't have to deal with:
1 - You won't be able to see anything when you wake up in the morning and thus
2 - It's super important to you to have your glasses within an arm's reach of your bed (what if some emergency happens and you need to quickly leave the bed?).
3 - You won't be able to see anything while taking a shower.
4 - When you don't have your glasses on, you can't distinguish anyone because every face is nothing but a blur.
5 - Which makes going to the beach a very complicated activity (if you don't have any contacts).
6 - Or any swimming activity.
7 - When it rains they get wet and you can't see properly.
8 - They will steam up in surprising and unplanned placed and you won't be able to see .
9 - You need to clean them regularly (and you need to be wearing certain types of fiber to be able to do it properly).
10 - They leave nose imprints.
11 - Changing clothes with them on is a challenge.
12 - When people try your glasses and get amazed by how blind you are.
13 - When they fall off your face.
14 - You can't lie down with them on without squishing and/or
15 - Breaking them.
16 - They are so expensive.
17 - Again, why do we have to pay so much money to be able to see?
18 - After a certain point, the lenses become so thick it's ridiculous.
19 - They also start making your eyes look weird when you have the glasses on.
20 - When you have to get new glasses but you can't see how you look because you don't have your glasses on.

This is our struggle (and I could keep going), so again, why did the fashion industry thought being blind is the new in?

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Sunday, 1 July 2018

Trip to Belgium & The Netherlands (Part 2: Or the Land of the Windmills)



Today I bring you part 2 of my trip to Belgium and The Netherlands, all about the land of the windmills! You can check out, if you haven't before, the first half of our journey in part 1: the land of the waffles where I talk about what we visited while in Belgium.

So I left the first part when we were in Antwerp and that's where we caught the train to Amsterdam. We were counting on being able to buy our tickets using the machines in Antwerpen-Centraal but apparently those self-service machines only sell national train tickets so we ended up having to wait in a long line for international trains and spent around 70€ for the two of us. The journey was around two hours and when we arrived in Amsterdam Centraal we walked all the way until the Nova Hotel, where we checked in. The whole hotel staff is very friendly and helpfull and it they serve a good breakfast with plenty of offer. There's a supermarket (Albert Heijn) a few meters away where we bought our dinners and a pharmacy in the back street.  Our first impression is of how many people were in the streets, that avenue was absolutely crowded.

From the hotel we walked to the Dam Square where we saw the Royal Palace of Amsterdam and the National Monument. From there we walked to the New Church (De Nieuwe Kerk), the Old Church (De Oude Kerk) and the  Church of Saint Nicholas (Sint-Nicolaaskerk). We then walked back to the hotel through the Red Light District and that's completely different from any other reality and totally normal for the citizens living in that district.


On our second day in Amsterdam we woke up early because we had our visit to Anne Frank's House scheduled for 9h, which is the first spot in their timetable. You have to buy your tickets online two months ahead and while you have a time to get inside the museum you don't have a specific time to get out so I believe the best time to see it properly is the first time in the morning where there aren't a lot of people inside. I had reread Anne Frank's Diary to prepare myself for this visit but I was honestly a bit disappointed since it doesn't have any furniture (Otto Frank's decision) and for someone who has the diary very fresh in her head, the visit in the house doens't add a lot of information. It is, however, interesting to see how they lived. The last part of the visit shows us a few testimonials from people who knew Anne and her family, their destiny after being found and some pages from her diary. After the visit, we looked at Westerkerk and walked towards the Van Gogh Museum (where we didn't go because of how expensive it is) and the I Amsterdam Sign, which was absolutely packed with people and is pretty much impossible to take a picture without having someone next to you (I didn't even try). From there, we went to the Magere Brug, the Bridge of 15 Bridges (where Reguliersgracht meets Herengracht) and the pretty Bloemenmarkt where we bought tulip seeds as souvenirs.



We spent the third day in the Netherlands roaming outside Amsterdam by train. The tickets are not very expensive but you have to pay an extra fee for the ticket (I didn't quite understand what that fee was all about, only that I had to pay it), which makes them 1€ more expensive and you have the option to pay with card only (and, in some of the machines with coins and they don't give you change). We went north first and got out in Haarlem (20 minutes journey) where we visited the Town Hall, the Grote Markt, the St. Bavo Church and the Molen De Adriaan, a pretty 18th-century riverside windmill. From the station, we headed towards Utretch, which is about 45 minutes away by train, and is a very picturesque little town. We visited the Dom Tower (Domtoren), and St Martin's Cathedral (Domkerk) and roamed around for a while. Even though we ended up not going there, I recommend Zaanse Schans in Zaadam and if you go around March/April, the Keukenhof in Lisse where you can see multicolored Dutch spring flowers (it was unfortunately closed by the time we got to the Netherlands, so do check their schedule before booking the trip).


We spent the morning before departing to the airport in a boat tour through the canals of Amsterdam. We bought our ticket in the hotel, where we got a nice discount, and caught the boat in Prinsengracht, near Anne Frank's House. They had an audio tour so it makes it a nice way to get to know the city, learn a bit about its history and take pretty photos. Once again, our flight to Lisbon was delayed by over one hour so we ended exactly as we started the trip.

Overall, despite being a very pretty city, we were surprised by the amount of bicycles we saw in Amsterdam (even though we knew well ahead how they bike everywhere) and how dirty the canals were. People in Amsterdam must be very used to the type of rain that doesn't really make them wet because it was a constant while we were there and they didn't even bother using the umbrella. Our debit card didn't work on the supermarket but it worked when withdrawing cash in the ATMs so we're not exactly sure what happened with it - I would be cautious anyway and bring extra money just in case. Also, let me just add how pretty most tourists goes there to freely smoke weed and it gets annoying having to deal with the smell (it got stuck in my hair for days). As always, the pictures here are just a small sample so if you're curious about the places I've mentioned you can check my instagram.

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Sunday, 24 June 2018

A No-Maj Ponders Potter: The Half-Blood Prince


And we're back at it again with my godson and his journey through the Harry Potter movies! This time he brings us his review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)!

Voldemort continues to increase both his army and powers but Dumbledore and Harry Potter don't seem very worried and are going on a trip through the city together. There are bridges being destroyed and Harry is just reading a newspaper in a pastry shop. But don't think that the Hogwarts director is more worried! Instead of hurrying to cast half a dozen spells on Voldemort and his henchmen, he prefers to visit an abandoned house. They light up their wands and start searcing other people's houses as if it were their own. If I lived closeby, I wouldn't hesitate on calling the police to tell them that there were two wizards invading private property!

Harry and Albus go through the lot until, amidst the confusion, the mess and dirt, is a very neat armchair. That, of course, catches Dumbledore's attention and, as a grown child, he can't resist touching it. It causes the chairs to suddenly get a head and limbs! I, just for precaution, would soon send a Stupefy to that creature but the director of Hogwarts and Harry do nothing, showing some inattention and lack of preparation to deal with surprise attacks. Then you realise that, after all, the armchair was just a person, Horace Slughorn, with the habit of transforming himself into furniture in abandoned houses during his free time. Dumbledore is so impressed by his talents that he hires him as a teacher at the magic school.

Further on, Draco acts suspiciously and Snape vows to help him complete Voldemort's missions. Already in Hogwarts, Harry Potter discovers a book that belonged to a mysterious prince and uses it to cheat in potions class to win a bottle of Felix Felicis. I believe a student who has this kind of attitude should be punished! Stealing other people's stuff and copying the work is reprehensible. But  Harry escapes a penalty from lack of material and a reprimand by making a soup of can burn leaves. For those who only eat soup, it's cream and don't like green stuff floating around, here is a good potion. Otherwise I do'nt see its usefulness.

One day, Harry Potter is out walking with his friends in the snow and sees a girl being a victim of spells! She levitates really high and her mouth is wide open before being thrown back to the ground. It's a beautiful show but it didn't seem be very relevant plot-wise. Dumbledore wants Harry to approach the new teacher to see if he catches him distracted and removes one of those strands of hair that go into the water to see memories. Harry immediately starts being the teacher's pet. Every day, all the time, he's always being very attentive and very curious and, what on the one hand entertains the viewer, on the other hand annoys a lot. Malfoy goes to the basement and finds a box so old that there are mice in there, puts an apple there and some time later it's already a bit chewed.

I was trying to ignore that irritating little girl's crush on Ron but the part where the introduction and development intersect in this film is very confusing because of all the cuts between scenes so the actions rarely have a beginning, middle and end in a same scene and that affects my critical appreciation. So here's a paragraph to say I believe it's wrong! I know that Ron's going to be with Hermione, but that girl is already annoying me, so I think it's appropriate to leave it very explicit here! What's good is that this doesn't last too long because from then on Ron is poisoned and grabs Hermione's hand, which leaves the other girl pretty pissed off.

Moving on, and to make up for all this irritation, Harry sends a Sectumsempra to Malfoy to teach him a lesson! That's right, Harry! Continuing the cut done earlier to get Slughorn's spaghetti, Harry gets him drunk and thus, finishes his mission. In the spaghetti it's apparent that the new potions teacher taught Tom Riddle to make horcruxes. All these horcruxes must be destroyed to kill Voldemort so Harry and Dumbledore go to a cave to go boating and drink lemon juice with a shell. Then they're attacked by many bugs but they manage to escape. However, the Horcrux had already been stolen and so they failed to destroy it. When they return to Hogwarts, Snape kills Dumbledore, which makes me very angry. Hogwarts is taken over by the Black Forces!


As for the characters in particular:
Horace Slughorn: Has a strange hobby of disguising himself as furniture, but other than that he proves to be useful at the end of the movie.

Severus Snape: I always said he was bad and in this movie he proved it. In the end it's known that he's the mysterious prince.

Harry Potter: some lack of preparation to deal with the bad guys but still a nice Sectumsempra against Malfoy and Snape. I didn't like to see him make Dumbledore drink sour water.

Dumbledore: he's the martyr of this film; begins with a dark hand and ends up dead, having to drink expired things in order to get a necklace. I enjoyed his performance during the series although I think that if he was so powerful he could've shown more on certain occasions.

Voldemort: is gaining ground but didn't appear much, it's boring.

Love: Damn! But was this movie released on Valentine's Day? It wasn't! It was on July! Was it necessary to show the characters' adolescense so clearly? Maybe it wasn't! The subject of the moment stopped being Voldemort dominating the world and happened to be Ron, Hermione and the annoying girl... Harry and Ron's sister... The other boy that I don't know the name and Hermione! If I was Voldemort I would have been upset and in the next movie I would start to killing people! So they won't leave him in the background!

In conclusion, it's a extremely difficult movie to summarize because the actions don't have a logical sequence, the scenes are cut by other ones that have nothing to do with the first one and often important things remain to be said because they're spaced for more than 10 minutes. Of course this happens in several movies, but I found some unnecessary cuts in this one.

Don't miss out on his next review on the Deathly Hallows! If you haven't read the previous ones so far, you can find them over here:

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Sunday, 17 June 2018

I Tried Yoga For the First Time



You might not know this, but a couple of months ago I signed up at the gym next to my house and have been consistently working out there. They offer a wide range of group classes but I ususally go to Body Pump since it's the one that makes me feel strong and that has the best schedule for me. I hadn't tried any other ones, mostly because of the schedule they're on - I have been meaning to try the one for your glutes, abs and legs but they don't do them as often as Body Pump. My goal is to try most of them at least once so I know which ones I enjoy and which ones I don't (I already know RPM will kill me so will stay as far away from that for the longest time possible).

The gym usually has Yoga scheduled for Saturday mornings (9h15-10h15) and since I'd been feeling sort of stiff lately, and want to improve my flexibility, I thought I could try this class first. So this past Saturday I woke up early (as always, because apparently my body is no longer capable of sleeping past 8h30) and marched towards the gym. I got there one minute before 9h and a line was already forming to get the tickets for the class and, as a result, my expectations rose. I looked around and realised a few of my future companions had also brought their own yoga mats so I immediately started to wonder if I should've brought my own as well and making mental calculations on how long it'd take me to go back home to get mine - I had time to do that but I chose to take the risk anyway, since I also noticed a few people without their own mat.

I got inside the studio at the designated time, noticed how the average age was around 40-50 years old, and proceeded to copy the people who were already settled by getting a mat and a yoga block. They had also removed their shoes and socks so I assumed it was the standart practice and did the same. The instructor then started the class and we started by saluting the sun, which was sort of weird because we were inside a building, and it basically consisted in a lot of stretching upwards and quick exhalations. After we were done saluting the sun we started the hard moves (to me, at least). The were a lot of "mukhas" involved, I discovered I didn't have half the flexibility I thought I had and started to feel bad about myself because I was watching 60-year-old ladies doing better than me, but I'm sure that's because they were regulars (at least I hope so). You feel your muscles working (and sometimes screaming at you), and halfway through I realised yoga isn't about stretching your muscles to unstiffen them, but rather to work them and work on your breathing as well, although there is some stretching involved as well.

I'm not sure yoga is for me. I understand the appeal it can have but I simply couldn't turn off my mind and was constantely thinking about something else instead of focusing in the now. I had some problems with the breathing part as well: the instructor counted how long each breathe was supposed to be but honestly, if I breathed like the counting I'd probably run out of oxygen. I did enjoy her very much, though, because she kept saying what we were supposed to be doing all the time (and modifications) so if someone is used to the names of the positions they can do it themselves without having to constantly look at her, like I was doing. The easiest part of the class was, by far, the final 5 minutes where we just lied on the mat, breathing with our eyes closing - I'm sure this is the only position I can easily do.

Have you tried yoga before? What did you think about it? Let me know!

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Sunday, 10 June 2018

Trip to Belgium & The Netherlands (Part 1: Or the Land of the Waffles)



For this year's trip the boyfriend and I decided to do a combo in a week: Belgium and the Netherlands. We chose May because the weather is usually nice without it being too hot (sweet summer children) and it's not crowded with tourists yet. So we booked our flights (to Brussels and from Amsterdam), our hotels, packed our bags and spent a week doing the Benelux thing without Luxembourg because honestly, it didn't even occur to me we could also add Luxembourg until we had everything planned.

Our flight from Lisbon to Brussels was supposed to take off at 11h but by that time we hadn't even begun boarding and were later informed the plane had arrived late and we were waiting for a crew member to show up. Needless to say, we actually took off one hour after the scheduled time and instead of landing at 14h45, we landed at 15h30. We caught the train heading to Knokke and climbed off in Gare du Nord where we caught the metro (line 3) to Bourse and checked in at Hotel Atlas. The hotel has an amazing location, very central, you can easily walk to most of the sights in the center of Brussels and, as it is located between two metro stations, it's possible to reach the more remote places very quickly. It has a LIDL on the back street and the Carrefour Express is relatively close too (can you guess where we had our meals while there?). We then proceeded to use the rest of the afternoon to visit the Zinneke Pis, Grand Place, Manneken Pis and Jeanneke-Pis (which ended up being a disappointment because it's behind bars), St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral, Parc de Bruxelles, Palais de Bruxelles and the Triumphal Arch. We did most of them walking from the hotel except the last one, where we caught the metro.


We went to G(h)ent on the second day in Belgium by train from Bruxelles Central. The trains are very reliable in Belgium and it costs around 6€ (<25 years old) to travel anywhere. The trip took us about 30 minutes and when we got there we realised their metro only accepts coins and it doesn't even give you the change. After buying something to eat so we could change our notes to get coins, we caught the metro towards Saint Bavo's Cathedral (Sint-Baafskathedraal) and from there roamed around and walked to the Belfort, Saint Nicholas' Church (Sint-Niklaaskerk), Sint-Michielsbrug, Sint Veerleplein and Gravensteen. Gent is a very picturesque little town and I would totally recommend you to visit for half a day if you have the time.


On our third day we caught the train again, this time past Gent towards Bruges where I met a friend who's studying there. We didn't have a lot planned for this day because she took charge of our itinerary, and who's better than a local? We walked from the station to the main square (it's about 1.5km) where we met her and she began her tour. So, from the Grote Markt you can see the Historium and the Belfort, which we didn't go into. We then headed to the Basilica of the Holy Blood, the pretty City Hall. We also visited two abbeys, one hospital and the lake Minnewater but mostly we roamed around in the pretty streets, bridges and canals and she knew where the best spots were, so it was very nice! We almost took a boat tour (and they're supposed to be worth it) but the weather was absolutely DISGUSTING that day, with a terribly icy wind so we decided not to. Bruges was, without any doubt, the prettiest city I visited in Belgium and it's an absolute must if you go there.


Our stay in Brussels wouldn't be complete if we didn't try their waffles, which was exactly what we did on the fourth day. Before that, we went to Place Sainte Catherine and took the metro to the Atomium. Back to the center, we chose a little place near the Manneken Pis called Le Funambule to eat our chocolate waffles (which are amazing and I can't recommend enough). We then headed to check out in our hotel and catch a train towards Antwerp, the land of the diamonds and with the prettiest central train station I've ever set my feet in, where we stayed in the Astoria Hotel. The location is very good, you can easily walk from the central train station, and the rooms are large and spacious with very good variety at breakfast time, despite being sort of an old hotel. Since we arrived before the check in time we decided to leave our luggage in the store room and explore the city. We walked to Saint Carolus Borromeus Church (Sint-Carolus Borromeuskerk), Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp, the City Hall (which was being renovated, unfortunately) in the Grote Markt with Brabo's Monument and descended into St. Anna's Tunnel to walk 500m to the other side of the river. This tunnel was opened in 1933 and you can still access it using the authentic wooden escalators which were unique at the opening. Honestly, I didn't find Antwerp as pretty as Bruges or Gent but the main square is worth a visit. You can easily do Antwerp in one morning and then head to the Netherlands instead of spending the night there like we did, in my opinion.


Overall, I enjoyed Belgium but, in my opinion (and I believe the boyfriend shares it), the food is too expensive and they have a weather problem (so do pack accordingly). One never knows what they should wear when leaving the house because they manage to have the four different seasons in one day: it's winter in the morning, spring starts around the middle of the morning peaking at summer around lunch time and then we have autumn with rain and sometimes we go back to the winter during the afternoon as well. One never knows...

As always, the pictures here are a small sample of the hundreds I took while there so if you're curious about the places I've mentioned you can check my instagram. Now, since we went to two countries and this post is already long enough, I decided to split into two parts. So don't miss part 2 of our trip: the land of the windmills!

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