A Travellerspoint blog

Porto

March 27th to 29th

rain 14 °C
View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map.

So when we got to Lisbon we had to buy a ticket for Porto as we had decided to go there first. Forgetting the time difference we quickly jumped on what we thought was our 9.30am train. Fortunately someone else had the same seats and informed us this was actually a train to central Portugal, not North! So we quickly got out at the next stop, which again was very fortunate because the train to Porto also stopped there. Having an hour to kill in the station we went to the toilets and washed our faces and made ourselves feel slightly more alive. Then we tried to down a very hot cup of tea in about 5 minutes, wasn't all that pleasant! But at least it was cheap, like 0.75€!

When we got to Porto we didn't have accommodation sorted as we had no internet in Tours so we had to find an internet cafe and choose a hostel. After we got the metro into the city we must have looked completely lost because a lady who didn't speak English tried to help us and then found another girl who spoke English to lead us to where we were going. But really, we weren't lost, we just needed to find a street to get a sense of which direction was which.

So after we chose a hostel, I know, me in a hostel sounds too crazy to be true, but Carmen insisted so I decided to give it a shot. So Carmen lead us way past the hostel which I was not so happy about as hills and cobblestone streets and my bag do not mix! But we finally made it and could have a shower!

That afternoon we just wandered around Porto which is really a lovely city, although we did get a fair amount of rain while we were there which was a pain. There are two interesting things to note about Porto; firstly, every second shop is a pastry shop, and secondly, the houses in the centre of the town are actually the cheaper houses and some are very derelict.

We decided to cook for dinner so went to a butcher and got some kebabs, I think they were pork. They were definitely tasty. We also went and bought a local wine (apparently it is very famous, a 2010 Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas) and to a grocer who was hilarious. I thought I only had 10€ left but we wanted to try some of the local cheese, Queijo de Ovelha Curado Amanteigado, which made it more, so he said he could just do it for 10. But then I realised I had 15€ but he said he would still do it for 10 and a promise that we would come back and buy some Port from him if we wanted some. Both the wine and the cheese were really very tasty. The cheese was so soft, the guy told us we had to cut a hole in the top and spoon it onto the bread because it was too soft to slice. We ended up just having the cheese on bread and wine for dinner the next day as well.

The next day we went on a walking tour of the city which showed us some of the main sites and some nice views across the harbour. Too bad it was too wet and foggy to see anything. He told us we had to eat the traditional sandwich of Porto, called Francesinha, which is pretty much bread, meat, meat, more meat, a bit more meat, bread, cheese, an egg and sauce. Also with fries. We gave it a shot with two girls, Canadian and American, Carmen had met on the pubcrawl the previous night (I was way too tired to go). I shared one with Therese, the American, as they were massive, and so glad I did. Even eating only half was too much, hence the cheese dinner. The girls were interesting though, the Canadian, Carly, was actually an engineer doing her Masters in tidal power through this course which let her study in Lisbon and Spain and probably lots of other places, sounded amazing!

After lunch the four of us headed across the harbour, where there is another town called Vila Nova de Gaia, to do a Port wine tasting. We went to a place called Taylors and they give you 3 ports to try and a tour of the facilities. I was like what? Paying for wine tasting! But apparently they do everywhere. It took us a while to find the place, we headed up, and further up towards it only to find there was a valley in the way and so we had to go back down and back up again. I definitely deserved my port by the time we got there! It was really nice actually, beautiful place with a view across to Porto and some lovely Port, including a white port which I have never tried before! And now I know more about Port than I ever needed to. It all sounded a little bit funny actually, I mean it is fair enough that they take their industry seriously, but you can't read about them trying to mechanically imitate the sensitive nature of treading the grapes with a straight face.

By this point it was definitely time for a pastry, which we has been wanting since lunch, but of course when you don't want one you see 50 places but when you do you can't find one! So about half an hour later, after walking in the pouring rain, we finally got our pastry and coffee. To be honest, not the best, although there was a grapefruit or some kind of citrus sponge cake which was rather nice.

The next day was our last and Carmen and I were leaving that night so we had the whole day still in Porto. We climbed a tower for a view over Porto which was lovely, and then went into the adjoining church and another one. The other church was almost 300 years old and needed refurbishment and they had tiles for the roof where you could write your name. So now my name and signature is going to be written on the top of a church in Porto which is pretty cool. When we came out the rain had cleared and Carmen thought it was because of my donation to the church.

As our last activity we decided to head a bit out the city to a beach, despite the cold. We had been told that at the end of the 500 bus line they grill you fresh fish on the side of the road. So I was pretty keen and we headed out. We found the fish market which had all sorts of fish, including stingrays, and also live chickens and rabbits so you could kill and eat your meat! That was a bit full on!

We went in hunt of these grilled fish but they didn't seem to be happening yet so when we found a lady who seemed to be setting her grill up we tried to ask her. We ended up eating seafood rice in the restaurant because no-one could understand us. But it was still good, particularly the tasty and fresh prawns! We saw a bakery as well and went in and managed to get like 6 pastries for 1.50€! If I remember correctly we had a very tasty egg pastry thing, a set egg custard kind of ball, a coconut cake, a large custard tart thing, some other layered pastry item and I am pretty sure something else I can't remember. Most of these were quite small by the way.

On our way to the beach we passed another bakery which had these odd looking carrot things in the window so we decided to try one, and also got other stuff of course. By this point though we suddenly realised how full we were and Carmen ate some later but I just could not stomach it. Although I did try the carrot thing which was quite bizarre, not my favourite food item, really just tasted like sugar with an odd texture.

Walking back along the beach it was ridiculously windy and I looked really attractive in the poncho I had bought that morning. People up on the road were looking at us like we were crazy but we had loads of fun! The water looked great as well because it was so windy. Then back on the bus and to the train for Faro, with a stop off at our favourite grocer to buy a bottle of Port!

Posted by Claire.Miller 03:34 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Prague, Munich, Innsbruck, Montpellier, Agen, Nantes, Tours

Feb 24th to Mar 27th

Haven't quite managed to do these blogs yet so stay tuned!

Posted by Claire.Miller 03:15 Comments (0)

Copenhagen

Feb 21st to 23rd

semi-overcast -2 °C
View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map.

We got to Copenhagen at about midday, it is only an hour and 20 minutes from Bergen by plane! So we spent the afternoon wandering around the city through the main shopping streets. No success in buying anything though, which is probably a good thing as Copenhagen is almost as expensive as Denmark. There was however great success in lunch. We went to a bakery and I discovered that Denmark is brilliant at cakes and pastries, well this place anyway. I got a strawberry tart which had the pastry covered in chocolate and a custard filling. It was amazing, well except for the slight amaretto taste to the glaze, but other than that it was extremely tasty.

We went to a crepe place for dinner which was delicious. I got the four cheeses crepe, surprise, surprise, and it started off great but after a while the gorgonzola kind of killed any other flavour, as it can often do. I went for a caramelised apple and apple liqueur dessert. Again it was nice but even though they set it alight, my god was that liqueur alcoholic! It smelt really good but tasted only of alcohol! But hey, at least it made me feel warm. Copenhagen has quite a wind situation.

The next day mother and I ventured out together. Our first stop was the Round Tower. I decided we should take a different route than down the main shopping streets so we walked around. This took us past a park where there was the cutest little puppy. He was with his owner at the top of the hill, a very wet and slippery hill, and at the bottom was a lake which was frozen over. His owner would throw the stick down the hill, he would race after it, madly scramble to a stop before he hit the lake and race back up to do it again. It was great fun! He didn't quite manage to stop in time once and so slid into the lake. So cute!

So the round tower is, as the name would imply, a big round tower. You can walk to the top and get a great view over the city. What is interesting is that the climb up the tower is one wide slope. This is because they used to take horses up there! I thought that was pretty cool.

After the tower we did a canal tour. Unfortunately the guy didn't take card so I had to run to an ATM to get money and run back before he left. It was freezing cold but mum and I still went outside. It was a great tour, saw the smallest house in Copenhagen which is pretty damn small! Took us through canals which are pretty. Also saw the little mermaid, well from the back anyway, didn't bother to see it again from the shore.

We were starving by this point and luckily found another store of the same bakery we ate at the previous day. This time I got a pastry which was a sticky hazelnut biscuity, cakey thing on the bottom and a berry mousse on top, amazing! Again, for the win Denmark!

Our afternoon was spent at the Statens Museum for Kunst, or National Gallery of Denmark. Walked there through the Rosenburg Castle Gardens which I am sure was lovely in summer but quite dull in winter. Took us ages to go around the gallery but had some interesting pieces there. Not sure I would ever pick Danish art as one of my favourites though. Lots of pictures of farms and cows... I think it was this art gallery, although it could have been one in Norway, but it gave the implication, just through descriptions and info in the rooms, that the Danish struggle, or did struggle, with their national identity, which I thought was quite strange, not something I ever realised.

That night was massive packing night as mum was leaving tomorrow and I was changing bags with her, mine was way too difficult to handle with the trains. Easily managed to get it all in under her 30kg limit!

So the next morning mum and Melanie left and I was back by myself again. I wasn't leaving Copenhagen until that night so I had time to do loads. I firstly went to some castle gardens, I think they were the Frederiksberg Gardens. Turns out the first lot I went into, which were pretty, weren't the castle gardens, no idea what they were. So then I went into the actual castle gardens which were massive! It took me like an hour or so to walk around them! And weirdly enough I could not find the actual castle, I eventually did but it wasn't that exciting looking and so I didn't bother going in.

Walking back towards the main town I passed a cute little cafe on the street which was possible smaller than my room, jut a random cute little shack thing, but I had planned to have lunch somewhere else so didn't go in. Totally wish I had as when I got to where I planned to go, in the NY Carlsberg Glypotek (a gallery), it wasn't as cool as I thought so I didn't bother. But I spent the afternoon wandering around this gallery which had a tropical garden in it. The garden was where the cafe was an I thought it would be really warm but it wasn't. Copenhagen was ridiculously cold, there was a really chilly wind while we were there, like someone had just opened a massive freezer on the city.

So I went to this gallery which was quite good. It had a section on French masterpieces which I loved. It also had all this information about the burial processes of Ancient Egypt. Did you know they did mini models of equipment, such as kitchens and granaries, so the person could have them in the afterlife. They were really quite intricate.

On my way there I had seen a noodle place which is pretty much perfect in the freezing weather and not far from the hotel. So I went and had some noodles, dumplings and green tea for like an hour and a half. It was just what I needed. Then on to the train to Prague!

Posted by Claire.Miller 03:11 Archived in Denmark Comments (0)

Oslo and Bergen

Feb 17th to 19th, and Feb 19th to 21st

rain 3 °C
View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map.

So firstly Oslo. Not so much success in Oslo. We started our time there with a not so Norwegian pizza dinner. Then I read up on all the things to do there. They sounded great; the Nobel peace prize centre, munch museum, national gallery... And of course you know the unmissable Norwegian telecommunications museum, popsenteret (Norwegian pop music museum), Norwegian football museum, Norwegian magicians museum, and my favourite, the mini bottle gallery... Honestly don't see how they would get enough people visiting these places. And, relating to my problem, particularly when they all are closed on a Monday! (well the latter ones might have been open, I didn't check, just so no-one goes 'really? The bottle gallery? Not open on a Monday? But I was really hoping to go on a Monday someday!') Just so happened that our one day in Oslo was a Monday. So after much deliberation mother and I decided to go to the Hadeland Glassverk. Well we went to the Opera House first for the view from the top, but as the weather was quite terrible they had closed it.

So we headed on our ridiculously overpriced bus to the glass factory. It made sense as to why it was ridiculously priced when we got there... Two and three quarter hours later... The brochure had said an hours drive out the city but failed to mention the bus took three times as long! But it was quite interesting. There were good demos of glass making and info on how they do it, both for decorative pieces and wine glasses. Also there was a museum of glass which had some cool things, and really old glass pieces as well. There were also great shops but unfortunately everything was slightly impractical for bringing back. Well everything except a vase in the shape of a light bulb. Slightly awesome.

So half the reason I had gone there was because there was supposed to be some big artists thing on with woodwork etc. No idea where that was, did not see any sign of it. The other annoying thing was the closure of the honey and roasted nuts place. Would have been awesome on a freezing day like that but closed for the winter. And then we missed our bus because I crossed the street at completely the wrong time to check we were standing at the right stop. But that didn't end too badly as we manged to waste half the hour til the next one in the candle store.

So all in all not a great day in Oslo. Finished it with quite a nice sushi dinner though. So much sushi, apparently they didn't do small boxes, well that and I also really wanted a couple of nice hot spring rolls.

The next day was heading up to Bergen. We did the Norway in a Nutshell tour which is a self guided tour through some beautiful Norwegian valleys and Fjords. It started with a train at 8am, damn them, to Myrdal. This was a nice train ride with some great scenery, particularly when we got up into the mountains. The train goes to the highest station in Norway, so pretty much right next to some great looking slopes. It was just sun and whiteness up there, there was even a glacier, although I didn't see it.

Next was the Flam railway which goes from Myrdal to Flam and is supposed to be one of the most attractive lines. It gave views over the Flam Valley and stopped at a waterfall. Too bad it was too cold and the waterfall was frozen over, but hey, that was pretty too!

In Flam we had a little time to wait before our Fjord cruise. Here was a massive souvenir shop there and the guy let us dump our bags. We were going to out around the town but ended up spending the whole time in the souvenir shop, and also the ground was pretty much just a sheet of ice and impossible to walk on. There was a cafe in the building but it was closed. So we were by this time starving. At least though he sold cokes so I could have a drink. Unfortunately just before we left Melanie walked out and discovered a cafe which served soup right next door! Rather annoyed!

So the boat trip was really beautiful. It took us through two fjords; Aurlandsfjorden and Nærøyfjorden. Annoyingly though at the beginning of the second fjord we were heading straight into the blinding sun. The other annoying thing was we were in the wrong season to see the Bleiklindi, which 'sprouts yellow leaves in Spring and sheds green leaves in the Autumn' which I thought would be cool to see. But it was still stunning, massive mountain ranges, sometimes with ridiculously inaccessible farm yard, and frozen waterfalls. Stunning. It was freezing outside however so, as we were going so slowly I would sit inside until I saw something awesome and then go outside to take a picture, I had plenty of time to get out and line it up. The other really cool thing was that the moon was visible today, although not sure you can see it that well in the pictures, it is so small compared to the massive mountains. Because it was so cold there was lots of ice on the water, particularly when we came into port. It was quite hypnotising to watch the boat break up all the ice as it went through.

The cruise finished at a place called Gudvangen where we would catch a bus back to the train. We had a little bit of time and I was starving so I decided to go and find some food, as did Melanie. Everyone thought that there was no way we would find any as the cafe at the bus station was closed and this town consisted of about 4 buildings. However, being as clever as I am, I noticed one of these places was a petrol station and since when did a petrol station not have food. So found a chicken sandwich! Again the walk over was on sheets of ice and we were running behind so, in the rush back, Melanie managed a quite spectacular fall! Not as good as my stairs but still pretty good. Got back to the bus with about 2 minutes to spare.

The bus drive was pretty as there was a great sunset, however no chances for any photos from the bus. By the time we got to the train it was dark and we were exhausted. So we were in the station waiting for the train when I went on a toilet hunt and noticed a train way up the front of the platform. After great discussion we decided it was ours, so glad that we noticed! Would not have wanted to get stuck there overnight!

Arriving in Bergen we were still starved and so went to find somewhere decently priced to eat. After much searching we went for a place that seemed much like a Cafe Primo type place. It was great however as they did jacket potatoes! Although with corn which I thought was weird. The guy was really nice and gave me free bread, he couldn't tell if we were Aussies or Kiwis so I mentioned the fish and chips test and it was quite funny, he was like oh yeah! I totally get that now you mention it!

So for our day in Bergen mother and I firstly went up the Funicular to see the view over Bergen. That was stunning, although there wassnow everywhere up there and my shoes got soaked. We also got stuck up the top for a bit as the car broke down, but I figured at least we weren't one of the ones who got stuck in the car!

After that, took all morning in the end, we went for a couple lf tea and to warm up/change shoes. Then mother went to join Melanie and I decided to go do some galleries and shopping.

So I went to the first gallery, Lysverket the Kunstmuseene (art museum) I, and really enjoyed it. The ticket got you in to all three of the Kunstmuseene so I decided why not go to another one. Turns out the next one was a contemporary gallery. This kind of art I will never understand. I particularly liked the piece where they had got a bunk bed and turned the top bed upside down and dented the pillows. Apparently it explored the sense of loss, as the pillows were indented but no-one was there, as well as how children went to school camps and were taught to imitate other children. Oh yeah, that is totally what I got... There was another brilliant one which was an exit sign but, instead of saying exit it said like 'you are safe' or something like that, which apparently led us to re-explore the presence and meaning of using signs. Although to be honest I might not be artsy enough for that, I mean I'm not sure I really explored that presence in the first place so not sure I can re-explore.

I decided to not bother with the last one, which was design, and headed to do some shopping! Found a funky little homewares place I wanted to buy everything from, but settled for a mug. I also found a shop which sold old Laura Ashley wallpaper for €20 and almost cried that I couldn't buy any.

That night, as it was our last night in Norway, we did the traditional Norwegian meal. The place recommended to us was a pub called Pingvinen (translates to Penguin in English) and I went for the meatballs. I saw someone else having it and they said it was good, and also the menu was only in Norwegian. They really were good. Although the same cannot be said about the glass of wine I had, I understand now why Norway is not known for its wine.

Posted by Claire.Miller 02:53 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

A quick note

Again I am apologising for taking so long to upload. I have actually done a fair amount more they just need to have to be uploaded, hopefully will get a few up now I can use Vics computer, much easier than tablet. But don't know if people noticed, but you can check out a map of my route with stats and stuff which is kind of cool (and more up to date). It comes up at the beginning of each entry as 'View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map. '

Cheers everyone!

Posted by Claire.Miller 02:33 Comments (0)

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