We’ve arrived in Amsterdam, where we’ll be staying for about a week as we explore the city and some surrounding towns.
Our hotel is in the Amsterdam Zuid (South) area, a little ways out of the city core, and it feels much more sane than the overcrowded areas near Dam Square. The immediate surroundings are a mix of upscale residential and modern office parks.
Unfortunately we’ve both been quite sick since before we arrived in Valencia, and our lingering colds and flus are not letting go easily. That means that during our first week here we’ve been mostly sticking to our local neighborhood for lunches or dinners, and stocking up at the local Consum supermarket to cook at the apartment. Luckily none of this is a hardship as the neighbourhood is filled with nice places to eat, and the produce is great.
Our flight from Dublin landed in Seville yesterday. Amidst the whirlwind of checking into our Airbnb, stocking up on basics at the local supermarket, and catching up on sleep and real life, we’ve also managed to head out to explore a few times.
Our wanders have lead to us becoming pleasantly disoriented on the city’s narrow, winding streets, but thankfully Google Maps on Josie’s phone has always brought us back home. Eventually.
We took the tram to try the original Pastéis de Belém at the Antiga Confeitaria that has been making them since 1837. These tarts are called Pastéis de Nata elsewhere in the Lisbon, and they are available almost everywhere. But these are the originals made with a secret recipe.
They are truly the best Portuguese custard tarts I’ve ever had. Crispy crunchy flaky crust filled with light creamy custard.
One benefit of an incredibly hilly city is that the tops of those hills provide great views. In Lisbon they call these viewpoints miradouros, and every person and guidebook recommends a different one.
But the Miradouro da Graça seems to be popular with everyone. We climbed up on Monday evening, a little before sunset, hoping for perfect views. Although things were a little hazier than we expected given the blinding sunshine of the day, we were not disappointed.
We left the historic Alfama and Baixa areas and took the ludicrously crowded Tram 15E along the riverfront out to the Alcântara neighbourhood. There, at the foot of the Ponte (Bridge) 25 de Abril, we visited two of the more recent additions to the Lisbon map.
The LX Factory reminded us a lot of Toronto’s Distillery District. In 2008 an abandoned 1840’s textile factory was converted into artist studios, cafés, shops and market stalls.
One last blast of freezing rain and flurries blew through Toronto just before our plane was scheduled to take off. We felt lucky to be delayed by only one hour, which we spent watching the robotic arms of the de-icing machines spray down our plane with a fluorescent green liquid.
After a stop in Montreal and six more neck-wrenching hours trying to doze on the plane, we arrived in Lisbon around 7 in the morning. Even from high above, the famous “light of Lisbon” was already evident, glowing on the orange rooftops of the buildings we flew over.
We braved the humidity, downpours and dripping air conditioners of New York City for an August long weekend getaway. We usually avoid summers in NYC, but we had the travel bug after our London and Iceland adventures and snagged a good summer rate at the Nolitan Hotel in Nolita near Soho.
We took things easy and spent a couple days mainly along the Upper and Lower East Sides of Manhattan.
One of our first stops after we checked into the hotel was the nearby Elizabeth Street Garden. This small park is an oasis filled with lush plantings and stone sculptures, located on the site of a former public school torn down in the 1970s.
Although the café and a-la-carte breakfast options in our hotel were pretty decent, one of the things I always like to seek out when traveling are good third wave coffee spots. London has no shortage and we lucked out by finding the Gentlemen Baristas Coffee House just a few blocks south of us.
In addition to gentlemanly service, the coffee house has excellent coffee and tea, as well as porridge for an unusual (to us) breakfast option. We visited mainly during the week, when most customers were taking their orders away, which left us free to hog a table in the atmospheric brick and wood back room.