Friday, December 19, 2014

From Liverpool With Love


I've wanted to visit Liverpool for a very long time but it took me a while to finally book a flight, counting on my cousins to give me shelter. I hoped this city to offer me a local-like experience instead of a Beatlemania pilgrimage. Don't get me wrong, I love The Beatles but Liverpool is so much more than the Fab Four and LFC. From impressive cathedrals to a groovy nightlife, from hip cafés to free admission art galleries, from a memorable and iconic waterfront to the neverending high street buskers, Liverpool has a little bit of everything in its recipe and that's exactly what makes it so easily enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed my morning stroll around Albert Dock, where the warehouses were converted into interesting museums, gastropubs and must-see exhibition venues. Modern architecture mixed with the old buildings by the riverfront pleased my eye while my ears were invaded by Scouse accent and a cold gust of wild wind. Scousers are pretty friendly, I'll give you that! Walking along Bold Street in the evening, getting lost (literally) in Sefton Park after dark, dining at a Lebanese restaurant for a life-changing food experience... Liverpool was indeed full of little adventures. I was expecting snow but all I had was rain and hail. If you ask me if I feel like coming back to Liverpool, fuck yes, I do! There are many things and places yet to see and visit such as Birkenhead Park and New Brighton - probably more inviting during Summertime. It's a vibrant, easygoing place, cheaper than London and still insanely cool. Until next time, I can always listen to some Merseybeat.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Postcards from Prague


So, it has been quite an interesting week: after deleting my Instagram account and getting rid of clothes I wasn't wearing anymore, I finally made it to Prague with my partner in crime, Cláudia. Some cities are pretty but Prague is beyond beautiful. This city is home to wonderful architecture and stunning sights; probably not the most vibrant or the most multicultural place in Europe but hands down one of the most pleasing to the eye. Discovering the narrow medieval streets of the old town was a dazzling experience, even in the crowded Christmas markets packed with tourists (mainly excursions and couples), and certainly more alluring than Czech cuisine, which was a bit limited and unimpressive, dominated by meat, gravy, cabbage and dumplings. The first meals were delicious but after a while we got tired of eating either pork or duck on a daily basis. Not exactly a foodie paradise, I reckon. We avoided repeating those heavy portions several times though - street food (yummy, crunchy, hefty sausages!) and Vietnamese pho lived up to our expectations. 

It was quite chilly all the time (we kept on saying "Winter is coming...!" and dressed a bit like chic wildlings) and the Vlatva river managed to make the numbing cold breeze sneak into my bones and muscles, so mulled wine as an after-breakfast option was one of the best ideas crossing our mind in the crisp morning. We spent the evenings in the warm hotel room, enjoying the  sauna-like heating, the telly and the bed, getting ready for the next morning, when we had no choice but to wake up early and seize the day until a premature dusk around 4pm. The Jewish cemetery, the Alchemy Museum and Klementinum (where the Astronomical Tower is, along with one of the most beautiful libraries I've ever seen) were my favourite spots. And of course, the clichéd Karlov Most aka Charles Bridge is really something, albeit constantly crowded with tourists taking selfies and touching the religious statues. 

Regarding the Czech sense of hospitality, well... Let's be honest, the Czechs didn't strike me as a friendly bunch, with their cold, distant manners and Soviet/German-like austere conduct. Maybe it's my Mediterranean nature or perhaps it's the ruthless weather and lack of sunlight that makes people more taciturn. I didn't spot a smile or a laugh in the locals and I guess I've made a fool of myself by literally laughing out loud in the middle of the old town square, surrounded by muted, silent pedestrians. For those who drive, I wouldn't recommend you to experience the traffic in Prague - jaywalking was always an adventure and the bus was just about colliding with another vehicle on its way to the airport!

Anyway, we walked so much (+10kms in the first day) that we felt like there was nothing else left to see. Our last day was spent in this quirky Absintherie (Black Friday became Green Friday, said Cláudia) in the old town, where we got our fix of thujone and wormwood and had an entertaining time watching American hipsters snapping shots with the Green Fairy. I also indulged in Becherovka, a Czech herbal bitters similar to the likes of Jägermeister and Listerine, and according to Wikipedia, often drunk as a digestive aid (it makes sense, considering the heavy meaty local food). 

Prague was definitely one of the most spectacular cities I've ever visited, it felt like time travelling and it wasn't very expensive compared to other capital cities. It's a great honeymoon destination, everything about it is downright romantic and enchanting: the charming alleys, the view to the river and all those bridges, the gothic and baroque cathedrals and plenty of Art Nouveau wonders to stare at. However, I didn't enjoy its vibe, or the lack of it - we can't have everything, right? Go there, by all means, if you haven't yet - 5 days are more than enough to explore Prague. I kinda regret we didn't visit other towns like Karlovy Vary or Český Krumlov but oh well, we were too tired and lazy anyway. I bet you'll be a lucky one if you happen to visit Prague when it snows, for extra Christmassy flair and Wintery whimsy.
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