Congost de Montrebei- unknown “natural wonder” in Catalunya

A beautiful place that does not appear in lot of guide tours and not even some Spaniards know about it. So I was very happy when my friend showed me this amazing spot, which I consider one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. River pass- Noguera Ribargorcana connects Aragon and Catalunya surrounded by mountains. The narrowest point between the hills is only 20metres. They have the height of 500 metres. The park was declared in 1999 a Natural Reserve and there is no litter in the whole place. Actually I was surprised the people are so respectful because there was really no trash anywhere. This would not work in Poland or Belgium;)

There are lot of activities you can do there: trekking even with children the route is quite easy and you can always turn around when you want, just make sure that you carry enough water with you. Unfortunately we were not so smart and I had to “beg” the passing boat to give us one bottle of water, which saved us on the way back.

You can also take a kayak tour in the river. There are some companies that rent it out for hours or you can do the whole day tour: Montsec Activa or Zenith Aventura. The adrenaline junkies  can also do natural climbing;) For those who prefer to do something peaceful I recommend to take the train Tren de los Lagos between Lleida and la Pobla de Segur. The journey last 1h and 50 minutes and costs 7e each way.  On to the train you can admire beautiful landscapes of this natural beauty.

I highly recommend to spend the whole weekend in Montrebei rather then just one day its about 3,5 hours car journey from Barcelona and sometimes even more if you get stuck in the traffic.  The best months to go are between March and June and September-October, in summer is just too hot.

 

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Barcelona the place to be

I have started to write this post in October and was always wondering why it took me so long to post it. Now I know I waited till the moment I actually moved here- my favorite city in the world- Barcelona. It is my seventh time I am moving in my life and this time I really hope it is the last one because I tell you what: moving is hard!! But I am sure I chose this time the right city. Such a big difference from Brussels sun wakes you up every day, people are smiling everywhere, you have the beach, the sea, the mountains, coffee costs you 1e what else do you need?:)

Beginning of March, seventeen degrees, the sun is shining. I am going for a walk starting from Arc de Triomf and finishing in beautiful Parc Ciutadella. You can feel the energy, the city is living, people are smiling, lot of streets artists around doing performances.

Surroundings

From all the cities I visited in the world Barcelona is the one I could say: this where I want to live and stay. Amazing architecture, wonderful people, tasty food, beach, sea, multicultural environment… and the list goes on and on. Last time I came here I landed at a “Zombie festival” in Sitges (which is know as a gay capital of Spain) The streets were full of scarry dressed up people and it was very hard to find a place to eat but the city made a huge impression on me. I didn’t know it before but they filmed there some parts of “Game of Thrones”(to be honest I really don’t understand why people are so crazy about it) The old town is really beautiful, in the same time you have lot of sex shops and gay shows but this makes the town very unique. I would say it’s a great place to go for a party during the night and going to the beach during the day.

My second stop was Calafell which is a small city not far from Sitges with one of the nicest beaches nearby Barcelona. Calafell is famous for the 60ties theme festival in September. So if you are into Charleston, lindy hop, Cadiillacs and 60 ties music this is the place to be.

And last but not least you definitely need to go to Montserrat multi-peaked mountain located near the city. The highest summit of Montserrat is called Sant Jeroni and stands at 1,236 meters.  I would recommend to stay all day there have a picnique and walk around, the nature is absolutely stunning.

Barcelona – Get lost in Gaudi’s dreamland

I can never get enough of walking threw the gothic quarter and admire amazing gothic architecture. Some of the buildings date from Medieval times and even as far back as the Roman settlement of Barcelona. The Barcelona cathedral was constructed from the 13th to 15th centuries and has a typical gothic style so it’s definitely worth a visit. But my favorite part is Placa Reial where I always stop for a coffee or lunch in one of the restaurants. (10e for 3 courses meal+ huge glass of wine). Thanks to my amazing guide Sergio I discovered that for every shop in Barcelona in the past they had a symbol of flower on the ground. That is why you will see a lot of flower symbol all over the city.

My second stop is Casa Batlló – Antoni Gaudi designed in the art noveau style. The whole house is just like a fairytale. The ground floor has irregular oval windows and you feel like floating in the ocean. The house is very colorful, there are no straight lines and you can see that Gaudi liked to play with light. Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to see the other house ”Casa Mila” also called Pedrera but I will leave it for my next visit.

And finally the most important – Gaudi’s masterpiece- la Sagrada Familia, it’s amazing how much it has changed in the last six years that I have not seen it. So far there are eight towers that are finished but there are still ten more to be build including the most important “Jesus Tower”. I was told it should be finished by 2025 but I have some serious doubts that it will. In any case I found it absolutely stunning how it is now. Gaudi was inspired by nature. As a small boy he had some health problems and could not play with other children so his mum took him out for a walk very often and that’s why you can see so many nature inspirations such as the columns inside the church that look like trees. The game of lights is also amazing inside the cathedral and it makes a huge difference if the day is sunny. The quee is always big, it doesn’t matter when you come so best book your ticket online. Definitely get the audio guide to discover beautiful story of this magic place, it’s really worth it.

You can never leave Barcelona without visiting the most amazing Park Güell. It’s like going for a walk in the land of dreams. The park is absolutely breathtaking. The only problem is that is pretty crowded so best go in the morning and if you can during the week.

Next stop-either climbing or taking the lift to top of the hill Montjuïc. From here you can admire the panorama of the city and in summer you can watch movies in open air.

Last but not least and actually one of my favorites parts of Barcelona are the magical fountains in Plaza España. You can admire the game of lights with music completely free of charge. The shows in summer are on Thursdays to Sundays from 21:00 to 23:00 and in winter only on Friday & Saturdays from 19:00 to 21:00.

Eat, Drink and Dance

Barcelona is a great city to have tapas and food in generall. My favorite place for tapas is Bar Ramon, which is close to Sagrada Familia. The staff are incredibly nice, the portions are big and tasty my favorite is backed mushrooms with cream cheese and some jamon, pimientos( backed green peppers be careful some are hot and some not)and after dessert we got delicious digestivo. The funny thing is that the waitress puts it on the table and you can drink as much as you want.

Another really good place for tapas is Cachitos Rambla just on Rambla Catalunya.

For drinks there is of course the touristic Oveja negra in Las Ramblas that I personally like a lot even though you have many tourists but Sangria is really, really good.

Recently my friend from Barcelona showed me a great place that looked like you would be back in the 30ties witch tacky decorations and old fashioned chairs, again quite touristic but fun- Marsella (many Americans at least when I was there)

And my very favorite place to go for a drink is El bosque de les fades(jejej very touristic but I still love it) a truly magical, the whole bar is converted to a forest with little waterfalls, so make you sure once you get there you will have a little tour before you order a drink.

One of my favorite parts(wow there are a lot of my favorites here ) of the city to eat or have a drink is Born. It’s a very lively district with lot of people. I recently discovered a Spanish, traditional pub where they serve “leche de la pantera” it’s like sweet milk but with alcohol and tastes best with cinnamon- Casa del Molinero. They don’t serve you per glass so you have to order by bottle (10e). The owner is absolutely lovely and very chatty but he won’t tell you the secret recipe of the drink;)(at least not to me but try your chance)

Last but not least la Fianna a really nice place for a date, the interior is really romantic, the lighting just perfect and the tapas even though not typically Spanish still very tasty, although I would say the place is a bit more expensive then average.

I could not leave Barcelona without checking out the salsa scene in the city. The place I can definitely recommend is Havana Club close to Barceloneta, sometimes they play live music but on the weekends check the agenda because they might have zouk or kizomba night, on Thursday the best place to go is Mojito and on Sunday is Antilla Salsa Bar(people there a bit older). I also went to Bombon but I do not recommend it on the weekends, there is a quee to get it and then inside its too crowded to dance. On Thursdays I discovered very nice place in Grazia- El Sabor. You can have classes at 21:30 and later get discount for drinks.

I wrote this post before I actually moved here so my task for the next couple months is to update this section quite often and share with you my new discoveries. The true is that there are so many things to see in this beautiful city, restaurants, coffee houses, things to do around the city that the whole life won’t be enough to see it all but I promise I will do my best 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unforgettable Birthday at Como Lake and Milano

This year for my 30th Birthday I decided to do something very special so I got together my best friends from all over Europe and we went to Como Lake in Italy. We started from the city of fashion and style- Milano. There my friend Laura took us to a place with a traditional aperitif, which basically means having a cocktail and you get food for free. We went to a very nice place- Terrazza 12 with amazing view on the cathedral and the city. The drinks are quite pricy-12e but the view is worth it.

Apritif at Terazza 12

At Terassa 12

Aperitif in heaven

After that we went for a party in Just Cavali. The entrance is expensive its 30e but if you put your name on the list you will pay 20e and one drink is included. The cocktails are 10e and don’t order Mojito (they put more ice than alcohol) so I would recommend either smuggle in some small bottle in your bag or crash a private party;) as we did. You should definitely try the famous cocktail from Milano with ginger. The music is commercial and the place is full of models and designers but it’s definitely a great atmosphere and the club is outdoor, which is great cause you don’t sweat and you don’t stink of cigarettes as normally in clubs.

IMG_3773 Cavali

Magical Place- Como Lake

After Milano we finally hit the road and we went to the lake of Como, which is only over one hour ride from Milano. Our destination was Menaggio. We rented airbnb for 180e for two days for five people. The apartment was amazing, we had a terrace with the view on the lake where we had the morning coffee. Thanks to my very creative friend Kasia who managed to find wood we even made the fire in the fire place. The evenings were quite chilly so with the glass of wine it was really perfect.

Kasia collecting wood

I want to make fire and I will make fire!

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view from our balcony

11287407_786915768070295_521540480_n view from our balconyFire Place11297632_786914364737102_324353755_n

On our first day we went to see Villa Carlotta in Tremezzina. The villa was built in 18th century and its surrounded by magical garden with steps, fountains and sculptures. We spent there over three hours just admiring the gardens and the views

IMG_3838 IMG_3847 IMG_3870 IMG_3866 IMG_3860 Villa Carlotta

Our next stop was lunch at the lake at Ristorante Azalea, where we had delicious risotto and pasta. For my Birthday the girls surprised me with amazing speed boat tour around the Lake. (It seems like a tradition now I am celebrating my birthday on a boat;). We were admiring beautiful villas of Versace, Guinness and many others. We finally got to Bellagio, another beautiful village at the lake, where we did a quick shopping and tried some Italian ice cream.

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Villa Del Balbianello

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At the end of the day we went to try some wine and cheese and the Wine Bar- Cantina Follie in Tremezzo. It is quite well hidden so you need to climb some stairs before you get there. The place is adorable, they have thousands sorts of wine to choose from and you can order plate of wine and cheese for as many people as you want and 3 or 4 or 5 glassed of wine to taste. The atmosphere is really nice and the service is excellent, our waiter Matteo was very helpful and patient with all our requests. We even got a special discount for the Birthday. It is definitely a place where I would come back one day.

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with Mattero our waiter and the owner(from Holland)

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Coffee with George

You can not go to Como Lake and not go to see George Clooney Villa. So on our last day we decided to surprise him and have a nesspresso. Unfortunately when we got to the Villa- Oleandra he was not there so we took some pictures of the villa and hit the road to have our last lunch in Cernobbio with another amazing view on the lake. And finally we all got our planes to go back to our homes (well some people liked it so much that they almost lost their plane;)

Kasia calling George

Nespresso -Nescafe potatoe potato;)

Goerge's Villa

Goerge’s Villa

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I would highly recommend Como Lake to anyone who likes nature, the views are amazing, people are very friendly and food and wine is delicious. There are some places that I visited and I would say they are very beautiful but I have seen them once and its enough but not with Como Lake. This is a place where I would come back many times in my life. So if you have not been there book your flight, pack your bag and go to Como, you wont’ regret.And if you want to go there to celebrate your birthday even better. For me it was the best Birthday I could ever imagine!

London I missed you!

Do you ever have a feeling that you live somewhere and you don’t appreciate it enough? Well I certainly did not appreciate London when I was living there four years ago. I came back now for a business trip and I have to say it changed a lot. New buildings appeared such as The Shard, which apparently is the tallest building in the European Union.
I was happy to see my favorite Modern Art Museum Tate still in the same place. With my press card I managed to see two new exhibitions of Malevich and Sigmar Polke. I do like modern art but I am not the biggest fun, my favorite part of the museum are not really the exhibitions but lovely coffee bar on the sixth floor from which you have amazing view on Thames and St. Paul Cathedral.

After Tate I went to see my friends Albin and Malwina who in the last 4 years managed to get together, engage, got married and buy the apartment in Canada Water. Wow! They made me the most amazing breakfast ever, which I really needed after getting quite ill( of course I did remember it’s me : every time I go on holidays I always need to get ill!:( So unfortunately I had to skip all the crazy partying and drinking that I planned but instead we went to see amazing dance show from Cuba Ballet Revolucion, which was in London only for 2 weeks so I was quite lucky to catch it and knowing my passion for Cuban music I absolutely loved it.

The next day I had a reunion with my crazy friend from Thailand – Erica. We followed our Thai tradition and went for a coffee in Camden Market, one of my favorite places in London on the weekend. You can get there food from all over the world including places such as Ethiopia, Senegal and… Poland- 3 stands of polish kielbasa(sausage) not kidding.
Only in Camden Market you can find clothes three or four times cheaper than in regular shops so I did my portion of shopping for winter with great deals☺

On Sunday I went to Covent Garden to see my friend from Vienna- Reka and we walked around the market and there again new buildings hanging in the air. We didn’t quite figure out how is that possible but still quite impressive. Covent Garden didn’t change much the same street artists, noise and lot lots of people☺ but I still enjoy it. I even discovered small church that I have not noticed before and it’s really lovely.

After spending four days in London I realized what I missed about it: my friends, great shows, musicals, food from all over the world at any time you want, great clothes for reasonable prices that you can’t get anywhere else expect of New York, concerts. But after spending four days in London I also realized things that I did not miss: super expensive and crowded tube and all people rushing like crazy, the fact that you can’t use your hairdryer in the bathroom, huge distances, crowds, crowds and crowds.
Summing up it was great visiting London and I am sure I will visit it now more often but I have to stay it was nice to go back to small Brussels where life seems to go a bit slower.

Saluzzo and Torino – unexplored beauty of the Northern Italy

People always go on holidays to the south of Italy and they always say how beautiful it is but I never heard anybody telling me that Torino is a must see in Italy. After spending couple days in the north of Italy I have to say I am totally in love with the region, with the people and the food.

Saluzzo- magical small city up in the hills.

I started my trip with Saluzzo where I visited my brother. It’s a beautiful small town on the hills located in the Piedmont region. You don’t need a map or a guide, just by walking along the old square and going to little streets you can discover amazing places like eg. small canals just like in Venice. I can’t give any recommendations for a place to have a coffee cause every coffee shop is amazing and it doesn’t matter where you drink coffee it will always be better than in Brussels;). I was lucky enough to bump into a street market and bought many nice Italian clothes for a very cheap price. Definitely worth seeing is the cathedral from the 15th century. If you go up the hill with a local bus or you can even walk you will get to the Saluzzo castle and higher up you will find panoramic view on the mountains and fields of grapes where they produce one of the best wines in Italy.

Torino- Capital of the Alps

 I escaped from rainy Brussels to come to Italy and get some sun but unfortunately the weather was not typically Italian. Torino is located on the hills so you won’t always get only sunshine but rain can happen. Even though there was a bit of rain it was still lot of sun and the city has a lot to offer. I started my sightseeing from going to the top of the mountain Monte dei cappuccino from where you can admire the view on the whole city.

Museum of the cinema

 I continued my sightseeing and decided to visit a famous museum of the cinema. Turin is the place where film chromatography was first established. In the museum of the cinema which is located just in the headquarters of the Mole Antonelliana you can watch some world oldest movies and see expositions of very old cameras. You can really feel like going back in time. In 1982 the film critic Gianni Rondolino created Festival Internazionale Cinema Giovani, which later became the Torino Film Festival. Bear in mind that on Mondays the museum is closed.

Get lost in the old town

The best way to see Torino is just to wander around the old city. When you get to Piazza Castello you can admire the Royal Palace and if you have time go inside it has really beautiful architecture. From there take the Via Rome a street with all the boutiques the cheap and the more expensive ones. Once you get till the end of the street you will find yourself in the middle of the Piazza Carlo Felice where you will find lovely little church definitely worth going inside to check it out.

You can’t visit Italy without go for an Aperitivo. It starts at 6pm after work and you have something small to eat to warm up your appetite before the main meal but some Aperitivos are so big that you don’t need to have dinner anymore. You can have it already for 7e including a drink! My recommendation for Aperitivo-  la Drogheria at Plazza Vittorio- great healthy food and wonderful service.

Northern Italy is really a splurge I am definitely going back there soon.

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Torino- Via Roma

Torino- Via Roma

Piazza Castello

Piazza Castello

Magic in Torino

Magic in Torino

view from the bridge

view from the bridge

canal in Saluzzo

canal in Saluzzo

Saluzzo

Saluzzo

view from the top on Torino

view from the top on Torino

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Cathedral in Saluzzo

Cathedral in Saluzzo

beautiful architecture

beautiful architecture

 listening to amazing pianist while enjoying Aperitivo

listening to amazing pianist while enjoying Aperitivo

 

Heart-pounding whitewater rafting at Nile

When my friend told me you should go water rafting at Nile in Uganda, I was a bit skeptical cause I have done it last year in the north of Thailand and it was not so  crazy as I expected it to be. But I decided to follow my friend advice anyway and spend my last day in Uganda doing white water rafting at Nile and it was simply AWESOME.

The bus picked us up at 7am from Kampala and we drove to Jinja, where the rafting was taking place. We had a nice breakfast and after that we got 30minutes training already in water. We were six people from Germany, Poland, Canada and Belgium, our guide was from the USA and he was rally funny and at the same time professional.  We started with the first rapid- grade 5. I thought when seating in the front I will have better chances to stay on the boat but nothing more misleading. I fell into water and the current took me away. Luckily there are guys in kayaks around your boat who can help you once you are in water. After this flip I thought to myself that wearing bikini was not the smartest idea. Once you are in water you need to remember to hold on to your paddle but if you have a choice between holding to your paddle or your bikini I chose of course the second so I lost my paddle. But the kayak guy brought it back to me.  So after this we were paddling for some time and we got another rapid. This time 3 other girls fall into water. Its scary when you fall but you have to laugh really hard as its great fun, you just need to be careful not to hit someone with your paddle or not to hit a rock. After happily drowning in the utterly enchanting view of the scenic and gorgeous river base of Nile we stopped and had delicious lunch

With lot of energy we geared up  and put some sun cream on, wich was preety useless cause the water will wipe it off but we still did it. The first part was preety easy in comparison with the second one as the time between the  rapids was only five or ten minutes. We had to paddle really hard in order not to fall into water but of course two of us fell in again.

All prety tired and still paddling we were reaching the “bad place” it’s a place where you really don’t want to be as the current is quite strong and you can be under water even for 20 seconds. Luckily we were all really good paddlers so we made it without going to the “bad place” We almost reached our destination, there was only one rapid left. “We didn’t flip the boat yet” I thought to myself  but I didn’t really want to experience it. We were following our guide orders and got into a really strong current, suddenly a big wave came and I saw our guide falling into water and one second later we were all under water and our boat has flipped. As scary as it was we all found each other safe and the kayak guy was chasing our paddles as the girls were holding to their bikinis. We flipped our boat back and climbed back in.

In total we had 1 full flip, 4 flips for me personally , 0 bikini bottom lost and 2 paddles lost.

We finished the day with bbq and watching our pictures and videos, crying from laughter. We were burnt, super tired but extremely happy. I had an amazing time and can recommend Aidrift to do this fun day with.  I am sure if I ever come back to Uganda this is going to be on me to do list.

First day in Uganda – I survived!

I always dreamed of going to Africa and cover a story there. Now the dream became a reality. I am in Kampala- capital city of Uganda and according to my friends,who have lived here and a guy in the Embassy in Brussels” it’s preety safe city”. Unfortunately my experience today was very different.

I decided to go to the city center and explore. I also needed a pair of sun glasses. I took the local taxi which is kind of a bus very crowded but quite cheap. I went to exchange the money and I asked the guy who worked at the exchange office where is the closest market, so he directed me to Owino. The market was very crowded but there were many interesting things to capture so I took my camera out (which is quite big cause I need it for work) and started to take pictures. Out of a sudden some guy grabbed my camera . Thanks to another good man who shouted at him and said something in language I didn’t understand I managed to leave the market without any damages apart from the psychological ones. Luckily nothing happened but I realized after a while I was the only white person at this market so I guess taking out my camera was not the best idea.

I got really stressed out. I finally got my sunglasses( in a shopping mal) and went back to the hotel. After complaining to my friend on skype, I listened to his advice and went to chill at the Speke Resort , which is a big Hotel Resort where all Expats go to on Weekends. Yes I know I should spend time with locals not Expats blabla.. but that is  all I needed: a swimming pool, drink in my hand, peace and quiet and no stress that someone will steal my camera.

So it’s a good thing I got a full pass insurance because I will probably need it. I still have two more weeks ahead and visits to the north and south of the country and 3 stories to cover so wish me luck. But something tells me it will be great two weeks.