Thursday, 3 December 2015

Travel Diary Lisbon: Day 3

We woke up in the wee hours of the morning on day 3, reluctant to be leave the Azores. While on the other hand we were excited about what we had planned for our day in Lisbon. A day of Sightseeing, Shopping and Eating delicious pastries.

After an extremely turbulent flight we arrived in Lisbon. A little worse for wear but still optimistic about our day in Lisbon, that was until the downpour began. We headed straight to the hotel to better prepare ourselves for the weather outside. The hotel was a complete contrast to the weather outside; bright, colourful, cheerful and even a little motivational. (FYI. We stayed at the Embaixador Hotel).

With the weather being super rainy and windy we decided to purchase a hop-on-hop-off bus pass. This allowed us to see some parts of Lisbon that we were just unable to walk around and explore. Instead of taking pictures from a bus window I just sat and enjoyed the view. When the weather slowed down a bit, we hopped off the bus to explore. Our first stop was the Monument for Portugal's Age of Discovery.

From there we continued on towards Torre de Belem. This was around the time the weather picked up again. My mom and I definitely made the best of it and we had lots of laughs while we ran for cover.

After a pit stop for lunch we headed over to Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. The building and landscaping is quite impressive and beautiful, unfortunately we went during a time of reconstruction but it's still definitely worth a peek around the inside.

Next up was a "Must Do" on my Lisbon list. Rain was not going to keep me away from Pasteis de Belem. I have had these tarts from many different places but this is where the Pasteis De Nata originated from so I knew they were going to be amazing. And they did not disappoint, they are so good they are life changing (too dramatic?).  

After eating some "Natas" we wandered around a bit more, got back on the hop on hop off bus and did another route and then we took a taxi to the mall. Now I know there was more sightseeing we could have done and I am sure I missed some amazing sights but going to Primark was one of the main reasons we even booked this one day/one night trip to Lisbon. As I previously lived in London for 2 years and was a frequent visitor of Primark, I have since been suffering from some major withdrawals back in Canada. So once we booked the Azores trip and the idea got thrown out there for a Lisbon trip I immediately looked up if there was a Primark in Lisbon. Much to my delight there was! Anyways I digress, I know I need to visit Lisbon again and for longer than 24hours but I wasn't leaving without my Primark trip.

Then it was time for bed as it had been a long day with a very early start. And the next day we were flying back to the Azores!!


                           Stay tuned for more AZORES Blogs!

Friday, 27 November 2015

Travelers Gift Guide 2015

Stocking Stuffers

My Top 10 - Stocking Stuffers:

1. Game Pad - for passing hours at the airport (Amazon)
2. Cord Wrap - to keep those cords tidy (Leatherology)
3. Earbuds Holder - so you can find your headphones in the bottomless pit (Leatherology)
4. Headphone Splitter - so you can listen to your music with both ears (Urban Outfitters)
5. The Stay-Put Charging Cord - great for home and travel (Restoration Hardware)
6. Gillette Venus - so that you don't end up traveling without (Amazon - but sold everywhere)
7. 7 Year Pen - because every traveler needs a good pen (Indigo)
8. SD Carrying Case - because you may collect SD cards instead of baseball cards (Amazon)
9. Shea Socks - perfect airplane socks (Bath & Body Works)
10. Room Spray - washroom spray because... (Bath & Body Works)

$20 & Under

My Top 10 - $20 & Under Gifts:

1. L'Occitane Hand Cream Delights - purse size cream (Sephora)
2. Travel Organizer - to stay organized (Amazon)
3. Glo Science - to keep a white smile for pictures (Sephora)
4. Globe Ornament - to decorate the tree (Paper Source)
5. Understand Exposure - to learn more about taking epic photos (Amazon)
6. Splendid Cities Colouring Book - to unwind and daydream (Amazon)
7. Beanie - for bad hair days (Asos)
8. Talula Mittens - to keep warm in chilly destinations (Aritzia)
9. Pocket Selfie - for solo travel or epic group selfies (The Container Store)
10. TNA Leggings - for travel days (Aritzia)

$21 - $60

My Top - $21 - $60 Gifts:

1. Phone Gorillapod - for the Instagrams (L.L.Bean)
2. Luggage Tag - to tell people to keep their hands off (Leatherology)
3. Wide Angle Phone Lens - to travel light (Urban Outfitters)
4. Kate Spade Travel Journal - to write memories (Indigo)
5. Ted Baker Travel Wallet - to travel in style (Paper Source)
6. Jo Malone Ornament - for little luxuries (Jo Malone)
7. Mini Chalkboard Globe "Globe Jotter" - for inspiration (Mod Cloth)
8. TNA Del Mar Top - for travel days (Aritzia)
9. Herschel Settlement Backpack - for hands-free travel (Aritzia)
10. Travel Outlet - to plug in all of the things (Amazon)

$61 & Up
My Top - $61 & Over Gifts:

1. Jo Malone Cologne Set - To smell good all over the world (Jo Malone)
2. Polaroid Zip - to print your Instagrams (Urban Outfitters)
3. Gopro Hero4 - to record any adventure you may find (Amazon)
4. Flask - to camp, hike or party in style (Swig)
5. Custom Leggings - to have one-of-a-kind leggings (Pins To Kill)
6. First Aid Beauty Set - to maintain radiant skin (Sephora)
7. GlobeIn Subscription - to support artisans and collect products from around the world (GlobeIn)
8. GHD Straightener - to curl or straighten your hair no matter where you are in the world (Asos)
9. Naps and Atlases Pajamas - for the sweetest of dreams (ModCloth)
10. Weekender Bag - for a weekend getaway (Vera Bradley)

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Travel Diary Azores: Day 2

The first of our booked tours was for an area of the Island called Furnas! We booked our tour with Greenzone Jeep Tours as it was the company our hotel recommended! Our tour guide Ricardo picked us up at the hotel at 9am and after a couple other pick-ups we were on our way.

The first stop of the day was to an old Fort, it was mainly just a quick photo-op, but I found it to be quite beautiful. The fort is mainly gone now with only a little bit of the structure still remaining. But an added highlight is the pillar-like structures that were a gift to the Azores from Japan!

Our next stop was another lookout, but this time the view was more of a costal cliff-line view. It was another beautiful pit stop on the way to our first main destination of the day.

Next up was time for Tea! There's no place better to have a cuppa than on the location of an actual tea plantation. We watched a quick film, had a guided factory tour and finished with a free cup of tea. My favourite part of the tour was actually a pair of trees that Ricardo showed us. He called it the "true love" tree. A branch from two separate trees has completely grown into each other, pretty amazing.

After tea we started heading upwards, to the top of a volcano. From the top you get a beautiful view of the crater lake, caused by eruptions thousands of years ago. Furnas is still an active volcano, and although there has been no recent eruptions (since 1630) you will see and smell the signs that this volcano is still very much alive.
Our next stop was back down to a lower elevation. It was time to see where our lunch was being cooked. Furnas is famous for cooking their food in the ground using the geo-thermal heat from the Volcano. The area is really interesting and had it not been pouring rain I would have loved to spend more time checking everything out. But on the bright side it was time for lunch!

After lunch we visited a small village with hot springs, geysers and boiling mud pits (that seems like a technical name?).  The smell of the sulfur is quite strong here, especially if you walk through a cloud of steam from the geysers. One lady was rubbing the steam into her face like she was getting a free facial from the steam!

The tour company saves the best for last, the hot springs! This was my first experience with hot springs and I gotta be completely honest.... I'm now addicted. These things are amazing, I came out of the water a whole new person. Every inch of my body was relaxed, my skin even felt softer. My one recommendation is to just make sure you put your hair up! The water has a high iron content and the ends of my moms hair look like she dipped them in copper! It is probably strong enough to also stain bathing suits if you don't rinse them off immediately after. But enough with the negativity because this place is AMAZING!! If you have a Gopro or waterproof phone case this is a good place to bring it. I had my Lifeproof Phone Case on and I'm glad I did!

After that it was time to head back to the hotel, just in time for dinner. Each stop on the tour was expertly chosen. We had extraordinary views, saw human nature and mother nature working together to cook food, and got to swim and relax in natures Hot Tub! After this day I couldn't wait to see more of the Azores. But up next was a brief journey to the mainland of Portugal, to the capital city Lisbon. For a one day, one night adventure of sightseeing, shopping and delicious treats!

More Azores Blogs coming soon!!!

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Travel Diary Azores: Day 1

After months of waiting for our trip dates to come nearer, it was finally the day. We arrived to the Azores (Sao Miguel Island) around 8am after an overnight flight from Toronto. We were exhausted but excited to begin our vacation. We booked our trip through Travel Zoo, the package included our airfare, hotel and transfers. Once we picked up our luggage and went through customs (aka you just walk through the doorway that says Nothing to Declare... unless you course you do...) we just had to look for our hotel transfer company. Right away I saw a woman with a sign with the name of the company and she directed us to a van in the parking lot with a few other people already waiting. We climbed aboard and after one more group joined us we were on our way. An older couple in the van had been to the Azores before, so on the way to the hotel they were pointing out all of the things that they remembered. This turned out to be helpful for us as they pointed and named some restaurants that were close by that we may have never noticed otherwise.

Once we arrived at our hotel (The Lince), we lined up for check in crossing our fingers that the room would be ready. After an overnight flight there is nothing more that you want to do than go to the room and freshen up. Luckily enough we were handed the key, so my mom and I headed straight up to the room. We were most excited by the view out the window (although it doesn't look at great in pictures) we had an Ocean view! Anyways we both freshened up and did a quick change and headed out on the town!

We spent our day wandering around the streets and venturing in and out of the different shops and tourism offices. We were thinking of checking an item off our Azores bucketlist right away with an afternoon of whale watching, however the sea was just too rough. So instead booked two of our tours for other days, went and had some delicious pizza and then called it an early night.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

10 Things to See and Do - Azores!

If the Azores are not on your bucketlist or even on your radar, they should be! Up until this year (2015) the Azores were a bit difficult/pricey to get to, but now with RyanAir flying to the main Island, and Sata's price drops they are much more accessible. The Azores are situated in the middle of the Atlantic so they may be closer than you may think. The flight from Toronto to the Azores is only 5-6 hours. The Azores are made up of 9 islands the largest and most populated being Sao Miguel. During my trip in October I was only able to visit the main Island, but I am itching to go back and see the rest! Here are my top 10 things to see and do on the Island of Sao Miguel, Azores!

1. Take in the Breathtaking Views:

From almost anywhere you look on the Island (Sao Miguel) you can see beautiful blue ocean, or green, mountainous volcanos! In fact the island is incredibly colourful, as they also have an abundance of wild flowers (especially in the summer time). Not to mention the beautiful waterfalls and lakes that you can venture out to find. They also offer lots of outdoor activities to enjoy nature such as hiking, kayaking, sailing. This place is a nature lovers dream come true!

2. Eat Volcano Cooked Food (Cozido):

In Furnas, you can eat a meal that is actually cooked from the earth! Cozido, a stew of sorts (lots of meat and hardy vegetables) is put into large pots and then buried in the geothermal soil. It is slow cooking as it takes around 5 hours to cook the food, but it is well worth the wait! It is the meal to try if you are in the Azores!


3. Visit Lagoa das Furnas

If you are in Furnas then you must view Lagoa das Furnas from the top. The area itself has so much to offer from gardens to churches and so much more.

4. Taste the Water in Caldeiras das Furnas

The small Town of Caldeiras is filled with Volcanic fumaroles (vents) which are really neat, but if you are looking for something all you have to do is taste the water. It is interesting to find the different tastes at each of the different water fountains (only use specified drinking safe ones). I'll leave you to find out what they taste like...

5. Bathe in Po├ža da Dona Beija

After all the sightseeing there is nothing better than relaxing in a natural Hot Spring! You come out of the water like a whole new person. Every muscle and inch of your body is relaxed. This is a Must-Do!

6. Swim in a Forest - Caldeira Velha

In case the other hot springs just wasn't "green" enough or you wish it were more natural looking... look no further. The Hot Springs at Caldeira Velha feels like your in the middle of a Jurassic Park movie.

7. Sip Tea at Cha, Porto Formoso

Although I usually stay clear of the Factory tours this one has unexpected bonuses. There are only two tea plantations in Europe, both being on Sao Miguel Island. Even if you have been to other tea plantations this one will offer something different.

8. Travel up, down and around Lagoa das Sete Cidades

You can see the twin lakes from so many different spots and they are breathtaking from every angle. The best view is of course from the top, where you can also find an abandoned hotel that you can walk through if your brave enough. Although they are called twin lakes they are definitely not identical as one is blue and the other is green. This is one of the most famous images of the Azores itself, so it is definitely not to miss!

9. Sit and Ponder Life at Lagoa do Fogo

This was my personal favourite (land) location of all the Azores spots. The Spot from the absolute top took my breath away (quite literally as it was insanely windy). But from anywhere around this lake you cant help but just sit, enjoy and take it all in!

10. Watch for Dolphins and Whales

Whale and Dolphin watching in the Azores is among the best places in the world to see them. There are many species of whales and dolphins that call the Azores home or that frequently pass through. Most operators will guarantee you a sighting (usually at least dolphins as they are more of a resident) and if you don't see anything they will offer you another trip out or a refund.

On my trip (in October) we saw Common Dolphins and Sperm Whales! Check out the Tour Companies blog post for more up-close pictures!!