Lisbon and Sintra

Let’s start with a disclaimer: I did not spend enough time in Lisbon.

To be more precise, I didn’t spend enough time exploring Lisbon. My first afternoon was spent watching Germany beat Portugal – and then celebrating afterwards. And half of my second day was spent exploring the Unesco World Heritage Site of Sintra.

From the little that I did see of Lisbon, here’s the verdict: it’s buzzing, it’s beautiful and it’s half as frustrating as some of the other European capitals. What I mean by that is Lisbon is relatively raw and not as commercialised as other historic, big cities. But that doesn’t mean it’s not as cool as them: it has the beach right around the corner, a historic castle with a killer view, colourful quarters and legendary pastel de nata.

Lisbon, Portugal Lisbon Continue reading

Porto

Even though I have travelled a fair bit this year, I keep going back to familiar places. India, for example. And I travelled again to Spain in March and went to Amsterdam twice in May alone. It’s been a great first half of 2014, but my geeky country count has been at a standstill.

In the hopes of checking off at least one new country, I decided to go to Portugal. I flew to Porto and met up with my old friend Sheila, who currently lives in Barcelona. We are both active travellers so we checked out almost all of Porto in 40 short but action-packed hours.

Porto PortugalSet gracefully at the bank of Rio Douro, Porto rises steeply upwards with orange-hued roofs chaotically spread among the narrow streets of the old town. It is a romantic little cities with a lot of medieval flavour. We walked through the narrow and steep streets checking out old relics, towering churches, abandoned monasteries and vibrant river-side of Ribeira. Continue reading

Patio Season in Amsterdam

In case you haven’t figured it out already, I am a sun worshipper. If the sun is out, I can’t be kept indoors. Basking in the sun is definitely one of my favourite activities whether that means I am out walking, cycling or just grabbing a coffee on the patio.

Being Canadian definitely has something to do with the sunshine fixation. We love our short summers and all the things that come with it. My favourite being eating and drinking outdoors.

This past weekend I went over to Amsterdam for my friend Fanny’s birthday and to attend a charity concert put on by my friend for a not-for-profit based in Guatemala. While the evenings were taken up by celebrations and festivities, the afternoons were put to good use: biking around de Pijp, eating outdoors, walking in parks and then grabbing another coffee outdoors.

Amsterdam Amsterdam Amsterdam
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Sunny Sundays at Hyde Park

London has had a glorious spring this year. I know that’s not what my friends in Canada want to hear, and to be quite honest, I wish the weather was a bit crappier so that I wouldn’t feel tempted to go outside all the time. I am writing my masters dissertation these days (and hence, blogging less) and the sunshine pouring through my window is not helping the pace of my project.

I was quite proud of myself for waking up early today and having a two-hour speed writing session that I decided to indulge in some sun-bathing at Hyde Park with my friends. Cheesy crackers, grapes and good company is all I needed to make this gorgeous spring day even more perfect.

Hyde Park Hyde Park Hyde Park
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Palma de Mallorca

Palma de Mallorca

My Erasmus girlfriends and I have a bit of a tradition: we like going on trips for our birthdays.

For my last birthday we all met up in Amsterdam and the year before we went to Krakow. And now that we don’t live under the same roof anymore, it’s even more crucial to plan holidays where we can catch up, overdose on coffee and check off another place on our bucket lists.

Somehow it came up that we go to Palma de Mallorca for Nina‘s birthday. Palma was never on my must-visit list, but it should have been.

By going in the spring, we avoided the hoards of rowdy summer crowds and were able to admire the beauty of this Balearic island at leisure. Inspiring architecture, buzzing squares, delicious food, sea breeze and the company of my two darling friends: how was I not supposed to fall in love with Mallorca?

Palma de Mallorca streets
Before we get ahead of ourselves, the first order of business in Palma was celebrating Nina’s birthday.  Continue reading

Potterheads

I am a total Potterhead. For the uninitiated, that means – and I am quoting the trusted Urban Dictionary here – I am an “amazingly cool person obsessed with Harry Potter.”

After all, I am a part of the generation that grew up with Harry, Ron, Hermione and the gang. I was allowed to skip school for two days every time a new book came out. And I limited myself to reading one chapter a day of the Deathly Hallows because after that, it would be all over. This whole one-chapter-a-day resistance only worked for three chapters and then ensued the familiar n0-food-no-sleep reading marathon.

All Potterheads are familiar with that mellow feeling of emptiness as they read the words, “All was well”. It also meant, all was over.

Harry Potter
But, thankfully there were the movies to keep us excited for a few more years. We lined up for midnight screenings and then went back to see the films after the crowds had dwindled down. And then once again after the second Deathly Hallows film, it meant that all was over.

Again, thankfully it wasn’t. There is the fantastic Warner Brother Studio Tour near London that keeps the sets and spirit of Harry Potter alive.  Continue reading

Amer Fort, Jaipur

The last time I was in India, my brothers and I went on a road trip across Rajasthan with my Dad. We hit up Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jodhpur. Visiting Jaipur was on the itinerary, but we got quite annoyed with each other and decided to skip Rajasthan’s capital and headed home after a week.

Luckily, I got a chance to visit Jaipur this time around when Cat and I were doing our classic Golden Triangle tour (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur).

Let’s just say I really like Jaipur. It’s historic, relatively well-maintained and blessed with good weather in winter. My favourite part of Jaipur was not something that’s in the Pink City, but a place just on the outskirts: The Amer Fort (often written and pronounced as Amber Fort). Since this was also the home of the Rajput Maharajas, it’s also sometimes known as the Amer Palace.

Built by Jaipur’s Raja Man Singh I, it showcases many aspects of the traditional Rajput architecture of the time.

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Amer Amber Fort Jaipur Rajasthan
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Best Travel and Expat Blog, eh?

Friends, readers and fellow bloggers,

I am thrilled to announce that thanks to your support, my blog has been voted Best Travel and Expat Blog in the 2014 Canadian Blog Awards. I was beyond humbled to even get nominated. So, this is a HUGE compliment.

Thanks for reading, liking, commenting and sharing. I hope to keep giving you reasons to keep doing all of that.

Much love,

xxR

best travel expat blog
PS: That’s me at the Amber Fort in Jaipur. A post is on its way!

A billion reasons to visit India

Guest post by Catherine Doherty

Catherine in Jaipur

“Delhi anti-corruption chief minister quits” read a BBC World headline as I logged on one morning during my ten day stay in India. Themes of corruption, classism and shocking human rights violations have long dominated the image of India in Western media, and never more so in recent years following the 2012 Delhi gang rape which stunned the world and the latest Indian Supreme Court decision to reinstate a 153-year-old law criminalising homosexuality.

Accordingly, it may seem an odd vacation destination of choice for a 25-year-old girl from London. Continue reading

Snowy, slippery, slushy Shimla

When I was growing up in India, the Himalayas were my favourite holiday spot. One can say that my love for travel emerged out of my trekking trips to Manali, family holidays to Shimla and relaxing retreats in Nainital.

So, when my friend Cat came to India, I wanted to relive my tween memories by taking her to at least one of the “hill stations” in the Himalayas. Mostly because of proximity to Punjab, we chose Shimla, the Queen of Hills.

What I didn’t take into consideration during the trip-planning was that in the middle of February, Shimla was going to be freezing. And oh boy, it was!

Shimla Mall Road
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