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Lookalike Lisboa

all seasons in one day 20 °C
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Having never been to Portugal, it had been on my list for a while, and after toying between a sunshine holiday in the Algarve, or a cultural experience in Lisbon I went for the latter, joining my mum and sister for our third long weekend holiday of the year to the Portuguese capital.

Unfortunately the weather for the weekend we chose wasn't great, with most of it raining but as this was a sightseeing holiday it didn't completely ruin the trip.

Because of the times of our flights, it meant that essentially we had just two whole days to see everything. And so we began the first day early planning to visit the majority of attractions in Lisbon itself.

Starting from our hotel, with some lovely views of the hills in the city we made our way to the centre, taking a quick look at the start of a race through the city, before making our way around the corner to jump on one of the trams running through the city.

After riding through the hills around the Castle of St. Jorge, we jumped off as we reached the city centre, taking a look around the pedestrianised streets, before walking past the end of the race in Praça Do Comercio.

Cristo Rei

Cristo Rei

After taking a look at the busy square, the views of the River Tagus we walked towards the ferry terminal to cross the river to Almada. Once there taking a tram up the hill we made our way to Cristo Rei, the Portuguese version of Rio's Christ the Redeemer, as we looked over the city of Lisbon next to the 25th of April Bridge, another likeness to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Ponte de 25 Abril

Ponte de 25 Abril


Belém Tower

Belém Tower

Crossing back to the Lisbon side of the river, we got on a suburban train and made our way to Belém, to view the Belem Tower, the Monument to the Discoveries, and the Jerónimos Monastery before having dinner and heading back to the city centre and hotel via the Eduardo VII Park.

Monument to the Discoveries

Monument to the Discoveries

Having seen the majority of Lisbon's attractions on Sunday, we therefore had the majority of Monday to enjoy at Sintra. After taking a cheap and easy suburban train we arrived at the village and made our way onto a tourist circuit bus where we jumped off a regular stops to view the village's attractions.

Pena Palace

Pena Palace

After quick stops at the Sintra Palace and Moorish Castle, we eventually made our way to the Pena Palace at the very top of the hill.

Pena Palace

Pena Palace

The palace is absolutely outstanding, feeling almost like an attraction at a theme park, so much does it stand out apart from everything else. As the path from the entrance winds up, between the trees you start to see parts of the vibrantly coloured buildings, and as you get closer and the trees stop you can see it in its full awe and glory.

After taking lot of photos from all kinds of different angles, we went inside the building viewing many of the palatial rooms and views outside before walking around the edge of the palace with views of Lisbon and the Atlantic.

After taking a last wander through the grounds, with views of the palace emerging through the trees on top of a hill, we made our way back down to Sintra village, and eventually back to Lisbon.

Rossio

Rossio

Walking through Rossio square, more empty after yesterday's race, we took dinner and made our way back down towards the Praça Do Comercio, before going back to our hotel.

Praça Do Comercio

Praça Do Comercio


Trams

Trams

With its reminiscence of other cities - the trams and bridge of San Francisco, the Christ Monument of Rio, the arches of Paris and theme park palaces, Lisbon has many features present in other famous cities. But by putting them altogether it doesn't matter - Lisbon still has its uniqueness and is a very interesting city to visit for a weekend.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Portugal Tagged hills tower palace bridge city Comments (0)

New York & The North East USA

RTW - New York

overcast 7 °C
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After 19 hours of travelling, I had finally arrived in my last destination, New York just after midnight on a cold November evening. I then had to make my way from JFK airport to my hotel in Chinatown, adding another hour or so to my day, but when I finally arrived I did find my room to be lovely and warm, and easily set about going to sleep and having a long lie in.

Grand Central

Grand Central

Waking up at about 9am, I decided not to keep lying in bed, as I had a very early start the next day, and so started exploring New York. I started my day going over to the Flatiron building, and then walking up Fifth Avenue, past the Public library, Rockefeller Center, and into Central Park - before heading back down to Grand Central station, the Chrysler Building and finally the UN building - where I had booked a tour in the late afternoon. The UN is classed as international territory, and once inside we got to see the Security Council chamber, (unfortunately the main debating hall was closed for repairs), and many artefacts and awards, before going to the shop and buying gifts and postcards with special UN stamps for postage.

UN

UN

After this I went off to Times Square to eat and then head back off to bed, as for the following three days I had booked an excursion to Niagara Falls and Washington DC.

Meeting early the following morning in Chinatown, I boarded the bus that would take us on our trip with mostly Chinese tourists, but also Europeans and some Americans and Australians. Each of our days involved early starts and late finishes, but crammed in a lot into just 3 days!

We began the trip heading north, stopping at the Secret Caverns en route...however with the trip already not being cheap, I decided that for most of these "optional excursions" as they were called, I would not bother with. Unfortunately this did mean hanging about outside on my own in the cold for 45 minutes most of the time...but in the end I realised this was probably worth it, as they were all tourist traps I wasn't bothered about.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Eventually we arrived at Niagara Falls in the evening, and after getting some dinner I went off to explore the falls in darkness, which meant that they were lit up with lights from the Canadian side. Unfortunately the way the trip was planned, and the experience of American immigration meant I had to scrap my plans to cross over into the Canadian side, where the best view undoubtedly was....but I did get to get insanely close to the waterfall edge!

Horseshoe Falls

Horseshoe Falls

We returned to the falls again the following morning to see them in daylight (where water got inside my camera and almost ruined the day's photos) after we had visited the Niagara Fort up by Lake Ontario, where there was even a view of Toronto!

View across Lake Ontario

View across Lake Ontario


US Capitol

US Capitol

On the final day of the excursion, we started by visiting Washington DC. Here we visited the Capitol building, the White House, and Lincoln Memorial before going on a river cruise past the airport and Pentagon.

Washington DC

Washington DC

We then went to the Space museum, where I touched part of the moon, before heading back off towards New York.

Stopping in Philadelphia for just 15 minutes, we got to see the Liberty Bell and the Hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed, before making our way back to New York and completing our excursion.

Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell

Although the excursion was very quick, and involved a lot of driving, I really didn't mind, I got to see a lot of things and have now seen everything in the USA I wanted.

Having arrived back in New York, the following morning I got up and headed straight over to the World Trade Centre memorial site, which had just opened a few months previously, allowing visitors to see the new fountains on the site of the towers.

South Tower Fountain

South Tower Fountain

After visiting the moving site, I then took a short walk over to take the free Staten Island ferry which gives a great view of the Statue of Liberty as it goes past (which many others seemed to also realise).

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

The change in Staten Island involved a quick run through the ferry terminal to make the return ferry in 1 minute, or wait another half hour - successfully I made this, unlike many others who were shouting "ruuuuuuuuuuuuun" only to fail to board in time.

Manhattan

Manhattan

Making my way back to Manhattan I walked around much of the civic and financial buildings, such as Wall Street, before crossing Brooklyn Bridge and taking loads of pictures of the Manhattan skyline. It was here that I got a laugh, thanks to a girl was discussing with her friend the biggest issue in her life - that whenever someone asks her where she's from, when she replies Brooklyn they always reply "No, where are you REALLY from? ...Nobody is from Brooklyn" #FirstWorldProblems

Central Park

Central Park

On my final day I had a late flight, and so after leaving my suitcase back at my hotel, I went off back to the Rockefeller Centre, where I went up to the top floor, giving me great views to the north over Central Park, and to the south over Manhattan, with a great view of the Empire State Building in its full glory.

Manhattan

Manhattan

I then finished the day and my trip with a wander around Central Park, before heading off to the airport and my flight home.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in USA Tagged waterfalls boat tower park city capital parliament border rtw niagara liberty Comments (2)

Made In China

RTW - Shenzhen

sunny 27 °C
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After debating for some time, on my final full day in the area I crossed into mainland China, visiting the city of Shenzhen.

Taking the metro up to the border, and crossing the pedestrian bridge through the no-man's-land, I went around the corner, where after filling in some forms and handing over about £50 I was given a 5 day visa to the Special Economic Region - far easier than applying for a normal Chinese visa.

Being checked at passport control where they used Dell computers that were indeed "Made in China" I was allowed into the world's most populous country and I was met by another friend of mine, Alex who took me round the city.

Diwang Building

Diwang Building

The city, twice as populous as its more famous neighbour, felt in many ways just like Hong Kong, and was far less communist than I had imagined. One of the most surprising things I learnt was that this was just the first of a whole conurbation of cities that stretched all the way to Guangzhou, 70 miles north and contains around 100 million people! We took a trip around the city, including visiting the Diwang Building, the 17th tallest in the world, where the observation tower is dedicated to the handover - with a wax model of Margaret Thatcher meeting the Chinese Premier to agree the exchange.

Thatcher

Thatcher

After visiting Alex's flat in a typical-for-China skyscraper, I then crossed back into Hong Kong for my final day.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in China Tagged tower city border rtw Comments (0)

"I like your T-Shirt!"

RTW - Tokyo

sunny 32 °C
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Having left Dubai at a disgustingly early 2:50am (and being told by the air hostess that she loved my T-Shirt, not realising it was actually dedicated to Copenhagen, despite the red blob looking rather like the Japanese flag), I was flown over Afghanistan and the Himalayas and then China and Korea before touching down in Japan in the early evening.

By the time I worked out and bought all the transport cards for the entirety of my trip and made it to my hotel it was already 9pm...and so finally making it to bed was a relief, and I treated myself to an extra long lie in, getting up at around 2pm, after the maid had already called. However this was to be one of the many appreciations for the Japanese I was to encounter...the maid had left me all the essentials for night (sheets, toiletries, dressing gown) just outside my door without disturbing me! So lovely of her!

I then took the metro to do a bit of sightseeing that and I once again witnessed some of the Japanese behaviour, this time in terms of personal space - when a train is half full, Japanese people will automatically space themselves so that their is a single seat between each other. However when the train is more busy this becomes more difficult, and so if there are 3 people sitting next to each other (where there will be a visible gap between them) and the person on the end gets up to the leave the train, almost instantaneously, the middle passenger will move to the edge...such a funny thing to see!

Asakusa Shrine

Asakusa Shrine

I then arrived at my first sight, the Asakusa Shrine, a short distance away from the Tokyo Skytree - and the two could not be more different! One being a historical place of worship, and the other a modern commercial tower! This was then followed by a visit across town to the Shibuya Crossing, the busiest crossing in the world where people cross in any direction, fun to people watch!

Tokyo Metropolitan Towers

Tokyo Metropolitan Towers

On the second day I realised how warm it was in the city..despite being 10 degrees colder than Dubai, it was still over 30! More refreshing, but still pretty humid. I had first visited the Tokyo Metropolitan Towers, where free views of the city are available, and then gone through the park areas to see more Shines.

Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni Shrine

After this, I finished up at the Tokyo Tower, before eating and then going back to the Asakusa Shine to see it in darkness.

Asakusa

Asakusa


Edo Castle

Edo Castle

On my final full day I saw the very heart of the city, including the Imperial Palace grounds, which I had booked in advance and were free. For my final night I had decided to spend it in a capsule bed, which was also offered by my hotel and was only one step up from a dorm room. However being Japan, there is so much respect for others and I had an easy nights sleep before making my way to the airport for my onward flight.

Capsule Bed

Capsule Bed

The hotel I stayed in I can easily say is the best hotel ever, being so cheap, in a great location as well as friendly and helpful staff and very modern and clean - although this could easily sum up Japan in general! The small bit I have seen has been so wonderful that it makes me want to visit again, and I would recommend it to all of you!

Next stop: Hong Kong!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Japan Tagged technology tower culture history palace city shrine rtw Comments (0)

"You have food!" "No, it's a teddy bear..."

RTW - Dubai

sunny 40 °C
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After a late flight from Heathrow on a cold Tuesday morning and flying over desirable locations like Syria, Iraq and Iran, I finally arrived in the United Arab Emirates just as the sunset to begin my 77 day adventure. And the first thing that hit me (quite literally) was the heat! Although it had been the same temperature in Hungary just three weeks earlier, the humidity was so much more making you feel sweaty almost instantly - every time I went outside my glasses steamed up! The thing I can compare it most to, is like when you open the oven door when cooking and all the steam blows in your face....only this didn't end!

One of the most annoying things was actually the air conditioning...being that it was kept too cold! Meaning the inside temperatures were around 25 degrees colder than the outside. It was quite annoying that just as you got used to the heat, you'd go inside and freeze...then as you got used to that you'd be boiling again - a bit like when you walk round the freezer section of the supermarket in your shorts - I resorted to bringing my jacket round with me all day!

Dune Bashing

Dune Bashing

On my first full day I was still getting used to the temperature and so I had a long lie in before a short walk around the area, where the souqs were located and then going back to my hotel before being picked up at 3 for my Evening Desert Safari! This was a lot of fun, being driven over the sand dunes as well as getting to ride a camel and then an evening meal whilst watching belly dancing. Definitely worth the money! One the second and third full days I had booked myself onto the bus tours of the city (having experienced what heat does in Hungary, I knew that this was probably the best way for me to see the sights in my limited time in the city) and so on the first day I saw the Bur Dubai and Deira areas and then change bus to see the new development areas such as the Palm and the Burj al-Arab hotel and many of the huge shopping centres.

Burj Al-Arab

Burj Al-Arab

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa

This then took me to the tallest building in the world - the Burj Khalifa, where I had booked a ticket to ascend to the observation tower, although for a moment I wondered whether I would in fact make it up there - having put my bags through security, Kevin Bear was picked out as being food! (something banned from the top) Whether this was a genuine mistake, or a reflection of Middle Eastern eating habits is still unclear. But once making it to the top it was an incredible experience, being on the 124th floor looking down over the desert - although unfortunately the humidity does limit the distance that can be seen.

View from the Burj Khalifa

View from the Burj Khalifa


Dubai by night

Dubai by night

I had timed this visit so that I would be able to see the city in both daylight and at night..amazing to see a city lit up at night! I spent a while up the tower before coming back down to view the fountain show and then heading back to my hotel.

Dhow Cruise

Dhow Cruise

On my final day, I had a late flight (or is it early the next?) at 2:50am, and so I had a long day to visit more of the city. I therefore took the free Dhow cruise down the river, before making my way on the bus tour to the meeting point where we would have a free guided tour of the neighbouring Emirate of Sharjah just to the north east of Dubai. After arriving back I then made my way over to the Dubai Museum and Sheikh's house which were too free after purchasing my tour bus ride, before making my way back to my hotel to collect my luggage and travel to the airport...albeit 5 hours early.

Sheikh's House

Sheikh's House

Dubai was an incredible experience...seeing both luxury and Arab culture although I would say go in the winter months instead, as several continuous days at 40+ is really uncomfortable!

Next stop: Tokyo!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in United Arab Emirates Tagged desert tower city sand rtw Comments (0)

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