In love with…Down Under

Hi lovebirds,

Has anyone of you ever been an exchange student? That kind where ‘exchange’ actually still meant ‘exchange’? Where you live with a host family, while someone else stays with yours? You attend school, meet great new people and make friends for life? Sometimes it feels just like yesterday that I graduated and sat on a plane to Australia, where I spent a year before going to University. I can’t believe it’s almost been 10 years that I went on this great adventure and perhaps one of the bravest things I’ve done in my entire life. Going away hasn’t been as exciting ever since. Leaving home as a teenager, flying across the globe into a different time and climate zone to live with people you’d only hardly been in touch with before leaving and staying with them for one year turned out to be one of the best adventures of my life, if not the best. I know I’ve only lived in Australia for one year, but it was such a life-changing experience that I still look back at it, as if it were yesterday.

To many of you, Australia perhaps is the country of dangerous animals, great beaches and people with weird accents. To me, it is so much more. I’ve met so many people that I call my family and friends today. Australia’s become my second home and even though I’ve lost the Aussie accent a bit, I’m still proud when people ask me: ‘Do you come from a land down under?’ I’ve never really stopped using my Country Road bag (I’m not even sure that is still a thing), I use my Lucas’ Pawpaw Ointment on a daily basis (wishing I could say the same about my TimTams consumption) and still use the phrase ‘fair enough’ in my sentences, even though I mostly speak German at home (and nowadays French). It’s taken me quite some time to realise it is thanks to Australia that I am now a full on breakfast addict, which proves that obviously Australian kitchen is way underrated. Flat whites are among my favourite things that I associate with Australia, not to mention TimTams, but I’d have those for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack in between, obviously. Even my colleagues are now hooked, I did, however, warn them, so I don’t feel guilty.

Last February, I got to go back to this fantastic country to be part of one of my friends’ biggest days of her life: her wedding. Getting off the plane and entering the Australian (Capital) territory felt so damn right. In fact, it felt oddly normal to be back and it surely won’t take me another 6 years to come back! It was an important two weeks because not only did I get to see everyone again, but I finally also got to introduce a mate to my Aussie life and show him parts of the country. We started off in Sydney, which was perhaps the most touristy part of the holiday, as we mainly focused on regional Australia. I love a good weekend city trip, but I honestly believe there is so much more to the country than megacities like Sydney, or Melbourne, Bondi Beach or Uluru (and I am well aware that Uluru is nowhere near a megacity). I might be leaning out the window, right now but I do believe that within those two weeks well-spent in Australia, T got quite the authentic experience of the country staying with my Australian host families, driving around the countryside in a ute, seeing wild animals (the list of animals we saw is long!), attending a farm wedding, walking up Australia’s highest mountain, which is not the one you’re probably thinking of right now, and actually visiting Australia’s capital: Canberra and you know what? It was awesome!

Oh how have I missed the loud, colourful birds, the ‘hey, how’s it going?’ at the supermarket even though you don’t know the person, the smell of the gum trees, cold rock ice cream, kangaroos, the bush, the ocean, a good chicken parmi, speaking English all day, the Aussie accent, hot cross buns, Peter Alexander and of course my friends and family. Australia, I have missed you like crazy and you have been and always will be the greatest love of my life. If we could, we’d already be riding off into the sunset together holding hands.

Bisou, M

Lisbon summer flings…

Hello there,

For those of you who have read my recent post on Lisbon already know what a fabulous city this is and how easy it is to get a great shot of Lisbon with all those hills. This one I kept for an extra post as I am in love with the location which is actually a fortress – Castelo de Sao Jorge – and used to be the royal residence until the 16th century when King Manuel I. decided to move out. Today it is one of the best platforms to discover Portuguese history and take photographs of the city. The panorama is absolutely breathtaking and tricks you into believing you’re at the ocean. It is also a great spot to take selfies, mother and daugther photos or to just accidentally have a photoshoot of your newly purchased dress that you’re absolutely in love with. Just beware of the wind up there!

Bisou, M

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A Postcard from Lisbon

Hello lovebirds,

I admit it’s been a while since our last post and it’s perhaps got to do with Lara first heading off to the U.S. and then starting her career as a teacher which means she won’t really be joining me on this project anytime soon. So I began to hesitate whether to keep writing, or to quit living in this abstract, superficial online world where you’re constantly under pressure to produce new interesting content but I finally decided it’s really up to me how I spend my days and I just won’t allow myself to get drawn into this mainstream kind of thing and decided to just continue doing what I love.

But this isn’t really what I wanted to tell you. About a month ago, I visited Lisbon and as I was going through my photos with my dad yesterday morning, I once again realized it would be a shame not to share them with you. Also because I’m head over heels in love with Lisbon and would go back at this very moment if I could. I even started learning Portuguese, so yes, it really hit me this time.

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My expectations of Lisbon were quite high as all my friends that had been there before told me I’d love it for sure so when mum and I left, I actually started having doubts cause I was worried my expectations would be too high. It quickly turned out though that despite all my friends’ comments I did fall in love with this place instantly. The locals were disturbingly friendly, they’d try to help you out even if you don’t speak a word of Portuguese (and obrigada doesn’t count). People were so surprisingly calm and relaxed, the world quickly slowed down and I felt very welcome in this city. It was my first time in Portugal, so I had absolutely no clue about their history, culture, language and I enjoyed my stay so much that I can’t wait to go back there to check out some more places. Porto is definitely on top of my travel list.

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Lisbon – or Lisboa as the Portuguese call their capital city – is built on supposedly 7 hills but apparently there are 8. Since it’s more prestigious to have 7 hills like the Roman capital why not make it 7, right? Anyways, it’s a hilly city with a lot of walking up and down, so if you ever do plan to go there you might want to leave your high heels at the hotel. The good news is that in a city with 7 hills you get a hell good of a view of the city. There is a great number of Miradouros – which means viewing platform in Portuguese -that will reward your sweaty climbing efforts.

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Esplanada das Portas do Sol

On our first night, mum and I went for an evening walk and as we strolled through the ancient streets of Lisbon, we came across a traditional festival with dancers wearing traditional clothing. A day earlier (12 June), the Santo Antonio Festival, patron saint of Portugal, started so we figured this must have still been part of the party that was going on all weekend. The further we went, the more the streets  filled up with people and the smell of freshly grilled Sardines and traditional music. Houses in Portugal are beautifully decorated with colourful tiles that make you want to take pictures of every single one. In the background you can see the Tejo river that very much resembles the ocean but really is a river delta. The architecture and monuments take you back to colonial times when Lisbon was still a rich,  international colonial power.

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Any blogger that has been to Lisbon or Portugal generally writes about how delicious the small little vanilla pastries – pastéis de nata – are, so I’ll spare you that one (but let’s be honest, they really are damn fabulous!). I’ll talk about ginjinha, a lovely cherry liquor, instead that you should give a go while there. I am usually not very fond of spirits but this liquor really is worth giving it a try. It tastes like a cherry popsicle to be honest and you can get it on the streets in Alfama or any local store if you want to take it home.

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Pastel de Nata
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Photo by Pinterest

Here is some advice that might be useful to you, or even to myself when I re-read this before my second trip to Lisbon/Portugal:

  • Transport: It’s best to get a ‘viva viagem’ card at the metro station. It’s a little green card that costs about 1€ and is refundable. Without this card you’ll have troubles getting around in Lisbon. You will need to put some money on the card so you can use public transport. They’ll charge you every time you get on the tram/bus/metro, unless you can get a day pass, meaning that you can get on and off as many times as you wish. ALSO: there is no metro till late in the morning. So if you plan on getting to the airport by metro, please make sure you check the timetable first. This might be helpful: http://www.metrolisboa.pt
  •  Be careful at restaurants. Keep in mind that the starters (usually cheese, bread, olives etc.) on the table are not free, they are usually included in the ‘couvert’ that will be charged anyways.
  • Beware of pickpockets, especially when riding the historical Eléctrico 28! If you’d like to take a ride on tram 28 make sure you get on at Martim Moniz (there’s usually a long queue but it’s worth waiting). End stop is usually Prazeres but you can easily get off at any other stop. Mum and I hopped off in Chiado near the famous Café A Brasileira where Fernando Pessoa, famous Portuguese poet, had a drink every now and then while doing some writing.
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  • My favourite Miradouros: Miradouro da Graça,  Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara, Largo das Portas do Sol.
  • I always love having a little tour guide on me when I travel. One of my favourites is the Marco Polo one as it gives a nice overview of the city’s history, culture, people, most important sights, usually includes a map. I was very satisfied with the different adventure tours they put together. Every tour is timed and even calculated if you want to visit all their museums they propose. They also planned coffee and lunch breaks where you can enjoy your time in Lisboa.

Hope this was somewhat useful. Have a happy stay in Lisbon!

Bisou, M

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Miradouro Sao Pedro de Alcântara
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