Strolls around Lisbon




There is this green, verdant and exotic oasis in the heart of Lisbon I want to tell you about. The Estufa Fria in Parque Eduardo VII, near the Marquês de Pombal, is a grand greenhouse with three gardens. The three parts are the cool, hot and sweet greenhouse. In the three large rooms you’ll find gigantic ferns, different cacti, vines, a pond with mesmerizing white water lilies, mango and banana trees and exotic flowers.

We started our day with strong espressos and rich, creamy and cinnamon-dusted pasteis de nata pastries and then headed to the estufas to enjoy the exotic verdancy. There is something very captivating about this place. The mood is both tranquil and historical. I felt just a bit like an explorer who was discovering new tropical species.

The Estufa Fria opened its doors to the public in the 1930s and even though this place probably is well-known among the locals, I bet many visitors don’t know about this gem. There is also a conference room right next to the greenhouse, which hosts different types of events. If I were to organize a work conference in Lisbon I would opt for this place: how brilliant would it be to admire this green splendour while having a coffee break amid the meeting day.

The entrance fee to the estufas is three euros and they accept cash only. A big green heart to this place.






Continuing with the theme of strolling around Lisbon, here are two other favourites. The curving streets of the Alfama district: narrow alleys and cobbled lanes, the yellow tram number 28  approaching around a steep corner, beautiful old facades, a fado performance in a street corner, large murals and the views over the tiled rooftops towards the river Tejo.



And third, the waterfront promenade Ribeira das Naus: buy a litre of juicy strawberries from the street vendor and sit down on the stone paving by the water to watch the river, boats, seagulls and people. And then just enjoy, summer, Lisbon and life.


El Rocío, the unique sand town





El Rocío just might be the most peculiar town in all of Spain. El Rocío is located in Andalucía, in the countryside of Almonte, in the Huelva Province. The town is also close to the Parque Nacional de Doñana, a significant national park where you can spot for example bobcats and flamingos. El Rocío’s surprise element is that its streets are completely covered with sand. The town exudes vibes of both a desert town and a classic western. You’ll find horse wagons, the poles for the horse rein, empty verandas, closed window shutters and dozens of swallows sprinting across the clear blue sky. And even a big thin dog passing by sluggishly. The dog almost looked like a prop of the town, playing a designed role in a movie-like scene.

But El Rocío is far from a deserted town. On our daytrip there we saw other fellow travellers, but the true boom takes place every Pentecost, Whitsunday. It is then, when the numerous pilgrims (hundreds of thousands of people!) doing the Romería de El Rocío gather in the town. The procession is done in honour of the Virgin of El Rocio.

In El Rocío there are the properties of more than one hundred brotherhoods (hermandades), whose members take part in the pilgrimage – many by foot, on horseback or in a horse-drawn cart. They begin their journeys from their headquarters, for example in Seville and Cadiz. This religious festival and feria draws people from all around Spain and the pilgrims are dressed in traditional Andalusian costumes, which means gorgeous flamenco dresses for the women. This festivity with the singing and dancing and dining around bonfires in the night time sounds both lively and interesting.

El Rocío is a fascinating day trip destination if you are roadtrippin in Andalucía. A strong recommendation. And remember to take your binoculars with you, if you are heading to the natural park afterwards for some fascinating (and rewarding) bird watching!




Spectacular Ronda



Ronda is definitely one of those places where you first take 300 photos, decide now I have plenty of snapshots and then very soon realize that you absolutely need to take 300 more because a) the light changed just a little bit and everything looks purely incredible in this new lighting, b) this must be one of the top ten most photogenic places I’ve ever been to and c) when everyone else is photographing constantly it is slightly difficult to not to do so yourself.

Ronda is a beautiful small city in the province of Málaga in Southern Spain, around 100 kilometres west of Málaga. I’ll share my dos and don’ts to this gorgeous city situated on the top of El Tajo gorge.

Well actually there’s just one don’t: don’t be afraid to visit the city. Beforehand I was wondering whether Ronda is difficult to reach and if the roads leading up there are narrow zigzag serpentine mountain roads, but nope. There were bends and curves along the way but mostly it was a pleasant ride in a peaceful countryside setting with glimpses of sheep and goats pasturing on the fields near by. Ronda is accessible via highways for example from Córdoba, Málaga and Seville.

And then to the dos. First and foremost, the Puente Nuevo, a bridge which separates the old town and the modern city centre. Far far below in the gorge flows the Río Guadalevín. The view is incredible, dramatic and dazzling. For another excellent view point you can descend to the bottom of the gorge via the rock stairs on the side of the old town and you’ll reach the Camino de los Molinos and several great photo spots.



The deep ravine, the city located on its edge, the sweet sunshine in late December, the vineyards on the hills around the city and the mountains far away: an excellent day trip destination.



I would also recommend you visit the Casa del Rey Moro. There you’ll find La Mina, a tunnel and an Islamic staircase with more than three hundred stone steps which lead down to the river below. Be careful, some of the steps are wet and slippery. The descent is both a bit exciting and totally worth it, because once down there you can see the reflection of the city above in the surface of the water.



After the stair climbing (rather than before) you can enjoy this wine with a view tip: the terrace, bar & restaurant El Morabito (Plaza Maria Auxiliadora 4), located on the backyard of an old palace. As a bonus we spotted this tower-like special place with one table and chairs and decided to enjoy the vista and some local grape products up there.




The Plaza deToros, close to the Puente Nuevo, is one of Ronda’s top sights, but we didn’t visit it. Bullfighting in its modern form is considered to be invented in Ronda. The bullring is the largest and hence most dangerous bullfighting ring in all of Spain. Bullfighting is a divisive issue and you can decide for yourself whether you want to visit the venue or not.

What is for sure is that Ronda will rock you to the core. Promise.