Tales

Immaculate transitions 

Cabins on the fjord, 2013

I was surprisingly pleased to be physically capable of supporting my fifty pound backpack after only four hours of sleep. From my couchsurfer’s residence in west Bergen, I bused over Michael Krohn’s Gate to Central Station and attempted to sleep on the train to Myrdal. Drifted in and out of pseudo-rest for an hour then proceeded to eat oatmeal cookies (for the sugar) and drink all café (for the caffeine) in possession in less than one minute. To my utter disappointment, it didn’t aid the utter physical and mental exhaustion one bit. I then came to the conclusion that this much anticipated journey would end in a disastrous fury. However, I was surprisingly pleased that my body decided to perform otherwise.

The Flambana train ride was absolutely splendid and included the following:
1.     Numerous waterfalls, including one with a staged dancing nymph on a hilltop (or, rather, two alternating to create a disappearing affect- thanks to the subliminal mystical enthusiasm of the country).
2.     Oh-ing and ah-ing Asian tourists, including one skinny twerp from Thailand repetitively doing spirit fingers at every stop.
3.     180* turn.

Upon arriving in Flam, its obvious that the inhabitants’ income is comprised by the train ride as well as the town acting as a base for transport to the surrounding fjords. The brochures, variety of postcards, and tourism center and visitor support system is utterly immaculate. Once one sets eyes on the glistening fjord, you feel that you must be on it. However, a special certification is required to kayak and the fjord day trips must coincide with the limited arrival and departure train times. After deciding that bike rental was the best (and only) option, I rented a bike for 50 NOK from Rahl (as in Dahl), also another hungover being, and took to the streets. 

I passed house after house with perfectly painted sides set on sidestreet all with views of rushing water in between the steepest mountains I’ve ever come across. Sheep grazed and their bells rand as they frolicked from salt-cube to salt-cube. I got happily sidetracked down dead-end roads which led to distant names or bridges to hiking trails (Apparently the waters gets its color because it is void of life).

After leaving a mom & daughters knit shop, I passed kindergarten-aged children all sporting neon-construction worker type vests walking down the road. The conversation went something like this:

Imagine a teacher mediating the conversation and a child echoing:
Marcus: Hi
Me: Hi
Marcus: What’s your name?
Me: Elyse, what is yours?
Marcus stares with bewilderment, eats flower.

Biked towards fjord park until the path ended, sat on a rock and watched the waterfall in the distance drop endlessly. Hesitantly, I returned bike and boarded the train to begin journey back to Oslo. As we approached Myrdal it began to snow. 

If you go, don’t miss:

Shop:
Unable to find the name but the knit shop is near the Flam Kirk (Church)

Bike riding, kayaking, hiking, boating on the fjord

Useful:
Visit Flam


Ukrainian Idioms & Transportation


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Trail leading up to the walls of Sudak Fortress, 2012

PictureView from pier in Novyi Svit, 2012

NOTE: This was before the horrible invasion and destruction of Crimea.

After an 16 hour train ride in second class from Kiev to Simferopol, and a bus transfer from Simferopol, we finally arrived exhausted, hungry, and dirty as hell in Sudak. Through eye-contact alone, we agree on a taxi and manage to hire the only skinny taxi driver in Ukraine. Not a minute after we had agreed on the fare and set off, did he swoop around the corner and picked up his Mother-in-law to hitch a ride. 

The gangly fellow turned out to be a madman behind the wheel. One of his first travesties was almost an old man canning across the intersection. Built on hilly terrain, the streets of Sudak claw their way out of the sea into a maze- thus a traffic jam on the main thoroughfare results in a pertinacious stalemate. Or so we thought. The cabbie proceeded to reverse at 15mph (and gradually increasing speed) up a one way street as if escaping a lava pit. Miraculously, we arrived at the gates of our guesthouse, backwards, Locked gates and a malfunctioning buzzer appeared to be trivial to our proactive Formula One taxi driver. Unsolicited, he scaled the walls and yelled “WOMAN, COME!”. Next thing we knew, a short Ukrainian woman was prying open the gates to an sylvan two-story guesthome shaded by cherry trees. 

If you go:
Beach & Fresh Market
(Market near the Intersection of Ushakova & Mors’ka St.)
Walk down the road towards the fortress until you almost reach the end of the boardwalk. Along the right, a fresh market sells fruits, cheeses, and vegetables. Take your haul down to the furthest point of the cove to sit on the water’s edge and watch Ukrainian women repetitively pose for their boyfriend’s camera. After a toe-dip in the cold sea, take the dirt, Mountain Goat-like trail up to the Sudak Fortress (FYI: littered with an impressive amount of glass).
 
Fortress
Explore the fortresses’ views and various ramparts freely and gaze into the Black Sea’s splendor. Tie a piece of fabric on the makeshift statue at the top for good luck. Don’t slip down the anthill, the paths are not controlled. Spot the beach cove to the right of the fortress and plan your desultory route to it through side streets.

Isolated Beach Cove 
(Near the end of Prymors’ka St.)
Once you emerge from the seemingly private garden path and you’ll come to a rocky cove with a restaurant and plenty of chairs to lie on. The water is warmer and the place is rather pleasant (besides the horrible, blasting music which is the norm). I recommend drinking over eating, unless shrimp crumbles mixed with eggs, mayonnaise and tomato sounds appealing.

Winery
Transport: Novyi Svit Winery is three miles away, seemingly in walking distance. However, the route is along a winding mountain road. Luckily we took a cab . Even more luckily, we happen to pass a man running after pick-pocket who robbed him as he was walking along the very way.

The winery doesn’t sell cold cuvee, you much purchase it around the corner at the store. Drink your cold Ukrainian cuvee on the beach and watch the boats. And, apparently, the jellyfish don’t sting.

If you go:
Transportation
Train + Bus (Don’t even try the Black Sea Ferry, it is impossible).
Stay:
Guesthouse Edem
Aivazovs’koho St, 17, Sudak, Crimea, Ukraine, 98000
+380 50 055 6564


HOW TO PREVENT CLAUSTROPHOBIA IN SINGAPORE

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Sands with Chinese New Year Celebration Float in the Foreground, 2013

PictureSingapore, Arab Quarter 2013

Rule One: Never enter into a Shopping Mall, no matter how badly you need to use the restroom or crave the air conditioning. If you’re body starts to gravitate towards Sim Lim, try to conjure memories of the valleys and creeks that you will never set your eyes on again after being sucked into the materialism that is Sim Lim.

Rule Two: Hawker Centers, food centers comparable to cafeteria style food courts, offer an array of food choices and give you the opportunity to try a variety of local delicacies. There are numerous Hawker Centresthroughout Singapore, typically one per neighborhood. Each food stall is graded according to cleanliness, housekeeping, and hygiene. If you end up choosing one of the more touristy Hawker Centers, beware of the vultures that will circulate you for business. I recommend the Hawker Centre in Chinatown, the Bukit Timah Market. Climb to the highest level for the Hawker Centre, the lowest level is the food market (grocery) and ground level is a clothing market.

Rule Three: Take a journey to the outskirts to the European-style Singapore Botanical Gardens and let yourself breathe before entering into the Marina Bay Sands complex, which has followed Abu Dabi and constructed its own landmass featuring a indoor-garden monstrosity surrounded by a resource-sucking 250 acres of gardens. It is, however, a extravegant sight and features massive tree-like structures that put on a light show to music at night. If you end up getting an hotel room to enjoy the infamous infinity pool on the roof at the Marina Bay Sans resort, you can watch and hear it from the rear bar.

Rule Four: Venture to the Arab Quarter (Kampong Lam) for everything. It is a tiny oasis that transports you out of the hustle and bustle. There are various shops, restaurants,eclectic spots with nightly live music and art happenings, and cafes. Remember that in the Arab Quarter, no alcohol is served or allowed. It is only allowed on the outer streets. While you’re there, swing into Blu Jaz Cafe for a myriad of art and live music happenings.

Rule Five: There are plenty of architectural splendors and oddities that can serve as your escape route from the heavy metal and concrete. Below are a few traditional architectural hideouts, inquire for more…
#1. Parkview Square (“Gotham Building”)
– Art-deco like structure, square features bronze statues of notable scholars, philosophers, and scientists. The ornate lobby has is simply breathtaking. Have a drink at the bar.
#2. 
Central Fire Station 
– Candy stripped
#3.
 Raffles Hotel
– The atmosphere simply invites old-fashioned class and provides a refreshing breath of air, reminiscent of the past.

If you go:

Drink & Dine
Bukit Timah Market – (Coffee stand up the stairs and to the left is amazing. There should be a line.)
116 Upper Bukit Timah Rd, Singapore 588172

Raffles Hotel (They do have happy hour at the back bar, though not as special as the courtyard.)
1 Beach Rd, Singapore 189673

Maharajah  (North Indian Tandori Restaurant)
Cuppage Rd, Singapore 229461


Culture
– Singapore Botanical Gardens


– National Museum of Singapore (Wonderful collection of contemporary art.)

– Fort Canning Park (Great view of the city on this little, historic hilltop)
70 River Valley Rd, Singapore 179037


THE FORGOTTEN DEFENDERS OF LENINGRAD

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Canals of St. Petersburg, 2012

PictureLenin commanding, 2012

Square. Harsh. Bleak. Dark. A quickness hoarding resent. Passing facade after facade, lifeless windows. Dilapidation of all we pass. The water even moves forcefully, violently against the boats, against itself. Each wave thrashing without repetition or order. The sky barring down upon the city and its inhabitants. We started the morning rushing past the memorials of a tragic past. Some meant to celebrate victory but instead serve to remind of the trials and tribulations and tiers of oppression. Lenin stands stalwart but windswept in front of Communism’s oath to work, labor. Guns held in the air of those Defenders of Leningrad greet those traveling from the hills into the city on Moskovsky Prospekt. Most statues’ body posture sculpted to impart strength and the supremacy over the common man who he concurrently is and isn’t a representation of.  Over the hills and into Catherine’s Palace, we’re greeted by a second-rate Russian rendition of Egyptian hieroglyphics. The whole Palace was bombed in the War so it has been completely restored- however, poorly.  Groups of look-alike tourists shuffle through with their pantyhose covering their feet to ‘protect’ the floor. It’s a madhouse. Our guide Dyolva tries to give us the history of every object, room, and related relic (it would not be the end of this information overload. However, it is quite impressive the amount of historical knowledge that every Russian civilian possesses in a memorized account.)  

// In St. Petersburg you must experience with a discerning eye.  On the way to Peter & Paul Fortress, we pass a monastery with grand spires and colorful domes- one blue with white stars. Incongruously, in the front along the street is a row of canons. We pass a Byzantine Synagogue (restored), a KGB building with perfectly square concrete windows for a whole city block, buildings of pale yellows and greens- their paint chipping onto the street torn by the wind and rain, bars named for their depravity (‘Sorry Mama’), horrid clothing shops, shadows stooped in windows just behind the drafty curtains. What we pass speaks more about the city than what we are supposed to encounter on our trip as tourists. A man walking out of an undisclosed building carrying one pair of women’s stilettos (one red, one black).  Seemingly suicidal pigeons standing on edge. A Mondrian mural hidden on a side street.


// After much deliberation, we decide to go have lunch downstairs of the Elisseeff Emporium trading house. Founded by St. Petersburg’s first spice merchants, the atmosphere is truly grand. The walls are beautiful windows of ornate glasswork, framing rows of counters displaying tea biscuits, cheeses, meat, and other delicacies. We move downstairs, almost haphazardly, to find a dimly lighted restaurant boasting maritime specialties. The lighting hid its true opulence until we settled. We sat in front of the kitchen at a mosaic table, the top adorned with profiles of local fish, near cabinets of wine. We melted into the seats like royalty- plush sofas with wooden armrests. Starved (it was nearly 4pm), we dined on Carpaccio, fresh poppy seed bread, and massive black olives, calzones, salmon, pizza, creamy mussels, and wild mushroom soup.  // To finish the grand tour, we popped into the student artist co-op and Smolny Cathedral. Still raining, we ran back into the boat from a quick stop before our after hours date with the Hermitage. [Sidenote: Our driver Nikkoli was quick to note that he was born in Leningrad, not St. Peterburg.] 

// The walls of the Hermitage are noticeably cracked; falling in but the guide continues to brag about its flawlessness.  No one seems to notice, even after she reports of the chandelier crashing onto the ground- through the floor- several years prior. We walk in to the Italian Master’s gallery and through Rembrandt’s gallery totally undisturbed, with time to process the brillance of the art. Our guide continues to lead us through the galleries with her left eye half-open into a wing where the St. Petersburg Orchestra has set up to play. Everyone takes their seats (20 per.) and I catch the first smile I’ve received from a Russian thus far. The clarinet player continues to cheerily play the whole duration and look at me after each song in an approving glance. The six scores are performed passionately with utmost precision.  The conductor knows each note with all of his being, he performs and gestures as if to impart each note’s essence.  // Afterwards, as we walk along the canal, the dark city is finally illuminated. The street lamps light the waterway and sparkling spire gleams in the distance.  Finally I understand the splendor of the city and with a Russian-like subdued sign of cheer, I am able to retire peacefully.

DAY TO NIGHT: ALBERTA AND BEYOND

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Lake Louise, 2013

PictureView of Calgary from McHugh Bluff Park, 2013

 The moment you land in Calgary and approach the city, you can instantly tell that it is a gateway to a natural landscape. The river, which separates the city into two distinctive parts, leads the eye to meet the peaks of the Canadian Rockies into the distance. Beyond that, the dubbed ‘Glacier Highway’ and miles of preserved lands await for exploration await within Calgary’s expansive natural preserves.

Calgary is a tiny city that has all of the precursory traits of a metropolis, however in infancy: an emerging neighborhood with art and subculture (Kensington), a chain-filled pedestrian mall downtown where tourists graze on fake-local dishes, the young professional zone with the newest farm-to-table cuisine and high-end cocktails. However, what makes it a truly enjoyable city was set years before the recent population boom. The most notable aspect resides in Calgarian’s love and appreciation for nature. A bike-friendly city with miles of running and biking paths and an efficient tram system connects the pockets of the city, making it easy to jump around town.

Calgary is a day-city that acts as an overture to nature-enthusiasts to the plethora of natural parks in the Canadian Rockies. Alberta is home to five immense National Parks. Banff, the first, is only 70 miles away from the city and the journey goes on endlessly from there. 

If you go, you simply must:
Caffeination 
The Roasterie
314 10 St NW
– When you walk into the door of this tiny dark coffeeshop in Kensington, it feels like you’ve uncovered a traditional shop whose purveyors have been roasting for centuries.

Dine & Drinks
Ox & Angela Tapas Bar
528 17th Ave SW 

Adventure
Bike west of the city along the Bow River and up to McHugh Bluff Park for a dazzling panoramic view of the skyline and the endless landscape beyond.

Head out of town
– Head Northwest to Jasper National Park & Banff.- Stop in Lake Louise for a quick trail run and keep heading northwest towards Banff on the Plain of 6 Glaciers
– Camp along the North Saskatchewan River off of Hwy 11


ARCTIC FLECTIONS

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Vatnajökull 2014, Located further south, the thawing icecap’s mass totaled 8% of the country and lead to Dentifoss’s powerful rate of cascading 3,059,436 gallons of water per second.

The world anthem for indie soulful wanderlusters is the same in every country – a combination of folksy rock whose singer bellows with a heart heavy of disdain and longing. However, in Iceland, the music is overlaid with an eerie psychedelic haze that seems to synchronize with the climate and landscape.

The nation is one whole amusement park. Around every bend there are dutiful signs indicating a place of interest. A seal colony, glacial lagoon, lava field, geothermal lake, countless fjords, magnificent towering waterfalls, a rift between tectonic plates, black volcanic beaches….  After three nocturnal days in Reykjavik, I embarked on a clockwise journey around the island encompassing the Snaefellness Peninsula and the absolutely, terrifyingly desolated roads around the West fjords. The geothermal influence got particularly interesting as I approached the northwest corner.

Turning the bend towards Krafla (a still ragingly active volcano), I tried not to be distracted into driving my Yaris off the road when I saw dozens of steaming chutes jutting out of the landscape. Due to the high volcanic activity further South and speculation of potential eruption, this was especially fascinating. Like awakening from hibernation, the Earth seemed to be rousing from its slumber. Numerable mudpots and live steam vents were backed by Krafla’s muted-red slope and which gave way to barren lavafields.

Two hours later, I found myself huffing volcanic debris as I puffed up the Hverfell crater. The ash from each step formed clouds of charred life in the air, and in my lungs. At the top of the semi-cone, the views from the rim of the crater exposed various stories of creation and destruction. To the west, Lake Myvatn shimmered with verdant coasts, and to the east, the total annihilation and scared earth from the various volcanoes laid out for miles.

About 45 km away, as if mimicking the same contrasting tone, the lavafields opened up to reveal a canyon containing Europe’s largest waterfall,  Dentifoss– a 45m, gargantuan waterfall pouring between two sheer basalt cliffs.  I stood there laughing at its ridiculousness, unable to comprehend how it was completely hidden, unexposed nearly 500 ft away.

Although it was mid-day, it seemed as though it was dawn. All of the air was heavy and tasted like the earth. Water was stirring everywhere. Further up the path was another massive waterfall- Selfoss, whose five giant 30 ft drops bellowed. Its splendor only mildly toppled. 

If you go:
Overall tips
Rent a car online prior and pick up wine from a Vinbudin before you get into town. 
Remember that you can only buy gas and alcohol within certain hours. 
Save your receipts for a tax-refund. 
Late August is a great time to go- you can catch glimpses of the Northern lights, Reykjavik culture night, and the best firework show on the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon.

Myvatn:
Eat & Drink
Pick up food from the market before 10pm & grill at your mainstay
Lodging
Dimmuborgir Guesthouse – spectacular cabins, breakfast with house smoked trout and hotspring bread, & ownership
Catch the sunset on the lake.
Baths
Jarbodin – bring a towel, water, & a book to take advantage of the sun and patio



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Fjallsarlon glacial lagoon and the Hverfell crater, 2014

SALTY SALAMANCA


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Cathedral Nueva, 2010

PictureTumbling throughout, 2010

Salamanca is a university town that is filled solely with senior citizens and tourists during the summer. This transient population tends to linger mostly around Rua Mayor, dining at expensive, subpar restaurants in Plaza Mayor.  

The feeling I take away from this architectural gem is that it has been invaded by foreign students who’ve driven the locals (and their offerings) to succumb to jaded tourist conformity. This type of syndrome- a true love hate relationship- is found throughout the world, notably in Paris during the same months. They choose to work and be apart of the industry to reap the profits but do so with a grimace. 

While waiting outside Cathedral Nueva , a man with skin like the dried riverbeds of Utah strums his guitar. His music charms nearby Spanish high school students- many of which use the chance as a smoke break which subsequently formulates an overhanging smoke cloud, creating a terrarium like effect.  (Spare yourself the confusion: Cathedral Nueva is right next to Cathedral Viejo.)


A few blocks out of the tourist red zone, there is an immaculate art nouveau and art deco museum. The stained glass ceiling of the entry is as if Van Gough crafted it while dreaming of a midsummers night’s sky. Every medium of the period is presented in great detail- from porcelain figurines, bronze, dyed glass vases to crystal feminine silhouettes. The arboretum in the rear of the museum is now a chic café and bar, a time-altering place to saddle up in a velvet corner couch soak up the atmosphere over some dark red wine. 

 

Joao, a Portuguese gourmand who insists that every restaurant in Europe is the same and therefore dines by the Michelin Guide, and I finally choose a place that looks like it could be the much treasured ‘local’ joint. Fooled by the décor, the barmaid looks like a haggard hillbilly and recommends a bottle of wine that blinks the eye. Every dish is covered in oil and I begin to wonder if anyone can actually tell the difference between the dishes or if they just could just as well be served rancid meat fried in oil instead. 

One last dud for the books: The 10€  ticket to enter the classic Pontifical University building tour allows entry to see rooms with chairs, benches, and old moth-eaten velvet curtains. You can also view the old library from behind a looking glass, complete with a roped off courtyard, which is home to a sole, haggard looking pine tree in desperate need of pruning. This is the full extent of the building access.

If you go, you simply must:
Stroll around throughout the towns streets, especially the random ways, and be amazed by the architecture.
El Museo Art Nouveau y Art Déco, Calle Gibraltar, 14 – Free entrance on Thursday morning.

Skip:
Eating near Rua Mayor
Don Quixote (overpriced food in an inauthentic atmosphere- they steer towards playing Bruce Springsteen)
Museum of Salamanca
Pontifical University of Salamanca




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Stained ceiling, Casa Lis 2010

RUBBER WELLIES & SUGARCANE


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Afternoon sun on the Amazon, 2014

PictureKayaking in Tanimboca, 2014

Stepping off the 8 person john boat, after a day on the Amazon, I feel slightly jovial about emerging unscathed. Somehow during our two hour journey back to Leticia, I fell asleep- head bobbing back and forth against the top of the lifevest like a loose X. The fear of falling into the chocolate oasis of anacondas, piranhas, and 18 foot pirarucus obviously did not concern my subconscious. I only had awoken when I heard the tiny sounds of glee from the 60-year old Colombian abuela. And there it was- a grayish-pink dolphin fin came jutting out of the water. 

Like all isolated tribes and maniacal suburbanites, the Amazonian tribes have their own folklore and belief system. The Ticunas in particular believe that the divine pink dolphin (Bufeo Colorado) impregnates women in the night. 

Leticia is nicely nestled between Peru & Brazil, creating a conglomeration of cultural encounters. Under the blazing morning sun, we ran from Colombia into Brazil along the heavily trafficked main road without so much as a blink of an eye over the border. Most Amazonians choose to run at night when the city is quieter and the exhaust and heat have diminished. Even under feet of rainwater, scooters fill the roads in the morning hours, packed on tight with crates of eggs, babies with helmets, and multiple schoolchildren. After the abrupt storms, water sprays into the chests of fellow commuters, knees remain submerged and the city becomes alive again. 

Even after the night’s heavy rain continued well into the morning, the ground continued sipping up the rainwater. Deep into the jungle nearby, I was suspended 200 feet up in the air gradually hosting myself higher and higher up for a canopy tour. Unlike the typical American zipline where one climbs a ladder, we worked our way up the rope with our grips- the smell of Reptileo exuding from our pores in the humid air. Above the trees, the cooler air blew through and the jungle seemed impenetrable as the sounds of birds resonated off the treetops. The noise of the changed quickly once we got into the riverbed in our kayaks. Insects echoed- blared- like sirens. 

The Brazilian Portuguese and cachaca can be experienced hand-in-hand with Peruvian ceviche and Colombian patacons. I chased down the irritation from mosquito molestation with caprihanas muddled on the cliffside of Tabatinga. The sun set behind the coast of Peru, seemingly pulling the clouds with it.




If you go:
Lodging: 
Amazona B&B (Letiicia)
(I wouldn’t recommend a dive- having shelter from the rain entering your room at night keeps one from insanity. Enjoy an indoor hammock and the excitement of cold showers.)
Casa Selva Hotel (Puerto Narino)
– You’ll have to get a boat ride there to stay on the bountiful, colorful island

Dine
Great fish to eat while you’re there: Dorado & pirarucu
Tierras Amazonicas Carrera 8, Leticia, Amazonas, Colombia
El Santo Angel Dorado a parilla

Drink
Aguardiente, caprihina 
Comara (Tabatinga Brazil- best place to see  the sunsetl)

Adventure
Tanimboca: canopy (dorsel) tour and spectacular rustic accommodations in a natural reserve
Pre-arrange excursions so they can get enough people together not to bail on your reservation.
Isla de los micos: I recommend skipping. Monkeys simply just molest you for about 15 minutes before you go to the next stop.

MOSAICS AND MONUMENTS TO THE MIRACULOUS 


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Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal

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The streets are narrow and wind up the hilltop, decorated with bright streamers and other adornments that mimic children’s’ birthday decorations. The little leathered Portuguese locals stand outside their tiny business doors; their lolling posture and gentle stares implying an eternal wait. 

The old #28 tram somehow winds through these streets, hauling loads of tourists packed liked sardines. Which is quite fitting, seeing that grilled sardines are a local staple. Despite the guidebooks’ claims that locals still mainly use the line, one only sees pale arms hanging out of the windows snapping pictures. This is the main reason I refuse to take the train until the following day and, by the time I finally concede, I board the tram like a dehydrated golden-retriever on the final leg to the Basilica Estrela


I wander uphill to Igreja Graca to get a virgin’s orientation of the city. It is vast; with the a spectacular view of the impossing Castello de Sao George perched high over the stacked orange roofs. However humorously unoriginal, the Ponte 25 de Abril is a powerful sight from afar and seems to give the towering Cristo Rei a red carpet entrance.

In an attempt to climb the Castello de Sao Jorge for ‘the best view’, I end up wandering around the little streets surrounding it for over a half-an hour, before finally reaching the entrance to be completely over the undertaking. I would argue that we got a better view from the Igreja for free. 

Walking through the streets, with sand between my toes due to quick spur-of-the-moment trip to Cascais, the possibilities are exhilarating and beautifully overwhelming at times. The little cobblestone streets are enchanting, especially upon the descent to Ria da Liberdad. It is an unexpectedly scenic road, considering it is one of the main thoroughfares jutting through town into the drugpusher’s den aka Praca Pedro. The street has a tree-lined ped-pathway with shaded benches near a multitude of ponds. As usual, I subconsciously decide on a mission without being completely informed (this is also due to stubborn unwillingness to read a map instead of simply looking at a map) and walk to Parque Eduardo VII. The Marques de Pombal is a sweet site but the park’s fountains are graffiti-ridden and one is even tagged joker-style with red mocking lips. 

After the tram ride from Alfama (on which the train got stuck due to lack of uphill speed and had to descend to reattempt incline a second time), I got a taste of the Portuguese gardens while lying in Jardin da Estrella under a willow-tree enjoying some vinho verde before taking a peek inside the Basilica da Estrella.  Warning: Do not get apprehended when you enter the Basilica by the old nuns. They’ll take you behind a tomb to the church’s tourist trap: pay .50 to light up a paper-mache crib of 500 bobble-headed figures.

If you go, you simply must:


Bars, Music, Nightlife:
The Old Pharmacy
PAVILHÃO CHINÊS
Docas- Drink the Sangria
PÁGINAS TANTAS
Tasca do Chico – Bairro Alto- Fado
Sip on capirhinas & ginginha (only from hole-in-the-wall joints)
Elevator de Gloria

Skip: 
Nacional de Arte Antiga, rather disappointing venture and consisted of gory art that is full of blood-spewing decapitated heads. 
the Castello de Sao Jorge
Basilica da Estrella

Sidetrips
Belem
Confeitaria de Belem- eat the pastries 
Jeronimos
Discovery Monument
Pracado Imperio
Muse Collecciao Berrado- Design

Sintra:
Pena National Palace- Visit in the late afternoon and have a drink of wine before closing, and get a chance to feel what it means to be in the clouds…

Cascais:

Craving a beach? This is just a short ride away. It was beautiful, but inquire with locals to find the hidden spots. Bring a towel and buy some fruit from a street vendor and relax by the sea.

Lodging:
Lisbon is known for quality Hostels, they are abundant. 
Where I stayed: Tavira Youth Hostel, safe & clean with community dinners