Central Portugal - Beaches, lagoons and real-life fairy tales

Central Portugal - Beaches, lagoons and real-life fairy tales

Many tourists who’ve visited Portugal in the past - and continue to visit - head to Algarve and the beaches in the south of the country. Nowadays, more and more people are drawn away from the glitz & glamour and in stead look for rugged nature & rural charm. I like both glamorous beaches and places "off the beaten path" - somehow Central & Northern Portugal seemed to fit that bill better, combining the two.

In this second part of the Portugal in 10 days series we'll look at what you can find between the two hot spots of Portugal, Lisbon and Porto.

Read More

Lisbon and Sintra - Walking to the beat of Kizomba

Lisbon and Sintra - Walking to the beat of Kizomba

Part 1 of Portugal in 10 days: A "Tour de Portugal" from Lisbon to Porto!

Every year I try to make at least one trip to some of the classic European holiday destinations. And last year my summer holiday trip was all about Portugal. Here is the first chapter a three-part story jam-packed with travel & dance tips! 

I was lucky to have collaborating with me on this Portugal series a friend of mine & kizomba-dancer-teacher-extraordinaire Kirsi VanSol. Kirsi wrote specifically to you her fantastic kizomba tips to make sure you get the best of your holiday in Portugal! Scroll to the end of the post to see where you can dance in Lisbon!!

Read More

A breath of fresh air - revisiting Alicante

A breath of fresh air - revisiting Alicante

Welcome to Alicante! On the Costa Blanca (the ‘white coast’), in the southeast corner of Spain lies this jet-set port, laid back beach town, urban metropolis and historic city. Know both as Alicante and Alacant, the city is home to some 350.000 people, plus another 450.000 people in its surrounding towns and hundreds of thousands of tourists and summer residents that flock to Alicante each year.

I had a chance to revisit Alicante a bit earlier this year. It had been a while… a looong while. I was picturing in my head a plain sandy beach and a 1990’s cookie-cutter beach resort but - to my pleasant surprise - found a lot more than that!

Read More

The orange Amsterdam

The orange Amsterdam

Q: What can you do in Amsterdam if you're not interested in "coffee" shops or peep shows?
A: Plenty.

Introducing Amsterdam: the capital Netherlands, the country's most populous city, its cultural hub and probably the most popular tourist & transit destination. Known around the world for the lenient drug (and various other) policies, the canals, clogs, tulips, windmills and a history of commerce, Netherlands is one tiny European giant. Tiny? The country is smaller than the island state of Dominican Republic and its famous capital has a mere population of about 800.000 - that is one tenth of London, one third of Paris and even slightly less than in Stockholm.

Read More

It's time for carnavaaaal!

It's time for carnavaaaal!

Carnival! The most colourful, indulgent and rambunctious time of the year! Carnival is a festive season which occurs according to the Catholic calendar before lent, setting this year at around 28 February - 4 March. Depending where you go you may see different types of events - but you can expect massive street parties and spectacular parades. Costumes and masks are worn, and in fact historically they served a purpose: behind those you could hide your true identity, race and gender.

Read More

Christmas in Vilnius

Christmas in Vilnius

December was dark and rainy in most of Northern Europe. It felt like such a chore to get up in the morning and step out of the door .. somehow the blankets get so much more comfier in the middle of winter. So what to do to cheer up? Take a little holiday!

Thanks to the long Christmas break we had time for a small impromptu getaway. Destination: Vilnius! This lovely capital of Lithuania (yes, that's the southernmost Baltic state) is home to roughly half a million people - and many many Baroque buildings. The entire old town, Senamiestis, is in fact on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Did you also know that it is claimed that the geographical centre of Europe lies in close to Vilnius?

Read More

End of the Dalmatian tour in Split

End of the Dalmatian tour in Split

To end our trip in Croatia we came back to Split. We decided to take another route off the coast from Dubrovni to Split just for a change - and can recommend for you to not to do the same. The roads are not well marked and don't expect any express highways (even though your map might suggest something like that), but it looks like they are building one. But hey, this was a sightseeing trip!

We made a quick entry to Bosnia-Herzegovina, passed through the borders and the town of Neum... nothing too exciting there to make us stop. However we did make a short stop in Omiš on the Croatian coast. It looked like a nice town with (again) a nice beach. Especially the canyon-like Cetina river looked intriguing.. perhaps some time it could be fun to do some rafting there!

Read More

Spectacular Dubrovnik

Spectacular Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is a ~1300 year old city on the southern end of Croatia - and probably the most popular tourist destination of the tiny country. The city is famous for its old town and for its massive harbour that lures in thousands of sailors and cruise ships passengers on a daily basis. With a population far smaller than Split (40.000 vs. 180.000) it seems like a much bigger city, spreading out and up the coast line.

Read More

Dazzling Dalmatia - Brac and Peljesac peninsula

Dazzling Dalmatia - Brac and Peljesac peninsula

While touring Croatia we tried to find some nice, peaceful, interesting places with lots of nature and we ended up going to the Pelješac peninsula - it was also conveniently "on the way" from the island of Brač to Dubrovnik. To get back to the mainland we drove from Bol to Sumartin and barely made it to the ferry leaving to Makarska (and possibly made an island record with those mountain roads as we noticed the ferry schedule a bit too late). The view of Makarska from the sea is quite impressive with the Biokovo mountain range looming right behind the city, going from 0 to 1700m in altitude within quite a short distance. Makarska looked like a lovely town too - shame we couldn't stay everywhere!

Read More

Start of a Croatian adventure - Zadar, Plitvice & Knin

Start of a Croatian adventure - Zadar, Plitvice & Knin

This summer I returned to the life of a tourist and finally made it to Croatia! I have been dreaming about discovering the beautiful beaches of Dalmatia for ten years now so it was about time. We had 12 days to see as much as much of the country as we could. I had done some research into what to see - and learned pretty fast that there's waaay too much! Luckily Croatia (especially the coast) is quite compact and the roads are in good condition so we got into our rental car and set out from Split with as little planned as possible.

Read More

The imperial and impressive Kyoto

The imperial and impressive Kyoto

Kyoto (京都市or Kyōto) is located in the central part of the Honshu island, south of Tokyo. This former imperial capital of Japan is a part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area and a very popular tourist destination, especially know for its traditional districts and temples.

I was staying in Osaka, just less than an hour away from Kyoto, and took one day to go for a visit. I got very helpful tips from my new friend Mio from Osaka who mapped me a great route through Kyoto! So around noon I arrived from Osaka to Kyoto's Kawaramachi train station, ready to explore the city!

Read More

Once upon a time in Osaka...

Once upon a time in Osaka...

After a week of being totally amazed by Tokyo I was exited to go see another Japanese city, Osaka!

Ōsaka, or 大阪, is a part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area of close to 20 million people. I'm starting to wonder how many of the world's biggest cities are located in Japan....!?!

It was easy to decide how to get from Tokyo to Osaka: with the Shinkansen train (the bullet train), yay! I had popped by the Tokyo train station before my departure day to check out the place so I would know how to get to 1) the right station and 2) the right platform. There are soooo many stations, terminals, platforms, entrances, escalators and underground passages that it's quite easy to get lost! But I made it! Just a little problem with my tickets at the automatic gates but no worries since there's always lots of helpful staff around! 

Read More

Great Barrier Reef - paradise lies below the surface

Great Barrier Reef - paradise lies below the surface

After getting soaked for three days in the rainforests north of Cairns I returned to the city to change gear, check mails and sleep. Next morning I had to wake up early, yet again, for my last Australian adventure on this trip! I had managed to switch off my alarm in the morning but luckily I didn’t miss my boat, pfew!

And so I was off to a 2 day sailing trip on the Great Barrier Reef - excited to say the least! In stead of taking one of the big boats with 30 or 50 other tourists I had booked a trip on a sailboat... Less people and more time. We were a group of 11 people (Finnish, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, German, French and Canadian) with a crew of 3 on the fantastic Coral Sea Dreaming.

Read More

"It rains in the rain forest"

"It rains in the rain forest"

It was my last (and very busy) week in Australia and I was spending it around the Far North Queensland. The week was only halfway and after the trips around the waterfalls close to Cairns I headed up the coast! The plan was to make a loop around the rainforest covered area north of Cairns and the town of Port Douglas.

It was a warm winter morning when I hopped on the bus in Cairns. First I would head to a river to cruise down along the mangrove shores and spot some saltwater crocodiles. I was curious whether we would actually see any but sure enough, as if they were planted there, we spotted a couple big ones.

Read More

Cairns - from one cascade to another!

Cairns - from one cascade to another!

It was the end of May and one of those mornings again: an unreasonably early wake-up and off to catch a morning flight from Darwin to Cairns. I felt I had barely fallen asleep the whole night, thanks to the Darwin party people keeping everybody awake (well it was Saturday night so what could I expect). I was counting the days 'til I would be home again, in my own bed, enjoying the peace & quiet…

From one small city to another, I was making my way through the northern parts of Australia. Cairns is the biggest city on the northeast coast, in the middle of tropical nature and the Great Barrier Reef. The city doesn't really have a beach (very strange) but a nice promenade by the sea. This is the centre of most of what's happening in Cairns with big lawn areas, spaces & equipment for the sports enthusiasts and BBQ spots as well as a 4800m2 saltwater swimming lagoon. And a lovely place to go see the sunset!

Read More

Darwin - the outback capital

Darwin - the outback capital

When I was planning my RTW trip I had been very curious about the Northern Australia and the outback so I had decided to add Darwin to my Australian itenerary. I arrived there after very exciting 10 days of dancing in Brisbane and the Gold Coast... feeling very tired. The hot & humid air of Darwin was a nice change after the chilly nights of Queensland - where I had actually managed to develop a cold. So the first couple days in Darwin I just kicked back, enjoyed the heat and did pretty much nothing. By the third day I was feeling better, happily doing some sightseeingand tanning by the pool. Not bad!

Read More

Chilling out in Byron Bay

Chilling out in Byron Bay

My plan after Sydney and Ayers Rock was to see some of the east coast of Australia between Sydney and Brisbane. But since I had spent some extra time dancing in Sydney and wanted spend some more time dancing in Brisbane as well there wasn’t a whole lot left. So it happened that Byron Bay was my one and only stop between the two big cities. I had asked around for the best places to visit on the coast and Byron kept coming up – frankly people had a hard time finding anything else to recommend which made my planning easier.

Read More

The big red rocks

The big red rocks

The iconic image of Australia: Ayers Rock! I had booked flights to Ayers Rock already last November when I booked my RTW-ticket so I didn’t have to think about whether to include a visit to the rocks on my trip. It was one of the highlights of this trip that I had been waiting for.

Let's get straight to business... There’s a couple different sites there: firstly there's Uluru or Ayers Rock and secondly Kata Tjuta - these are two separate sites, two massive rock formations. They are both located in the same National Park area and they're both an easy 20-40 min drive from the small town of Yulara where most visitors are based (or I might say all since there are no other places to stay there). Both Uluru and Kata Tjuta were formed in the same time period and are the same colour but they have different geology - read more about that at the bottom of the post.

Read More