Thursday, May 9, 2019

Pena Palace of Sintra, Portugal

"To beat the crowds is by getting there early - the rule of thumb for visitors."

On our second day in Lisbon, we woke up pretty early in the hope of catching the earliest train to Sintra. Our main highlight of the day is to visit Pena Palace (Palacio Nacional da Pena), one of the finest tourist attractions in Portugal and exemplifies the 19th century Romanticism style of architecture. Definitely must-go when in Portugal. 

HOW TO GET TO PENA PALACE FROM LISBON 
Pena Palace is doable as a day trip, although the journey from Lisbon to Sintra might be slightly long. Hence, it's advisable to start your day trip as early as possible. In Lisbon, we head to Rossio Railway Station. You can reach Rossio Railway Station by taking metro under blue/green line and align at Rossio Metro Station. To pay for the journey from Lisbon to Sintra, you can use Viva Viagem card and a single fare costs €2.25. The train runs every 30 minutes and it takes approximately 40 minutes to reach Sintra. 

2018 Portugal Lisbon Rossio Railway Station 01

Reaching Sintra Railway Station, turn right after getting out from the station and there is a bus stop 100 meters down the road. Catch the 434 tourist bus heading to Pena National Palace, the National Palace and the Moorish Palace, which operates on a hop-on and hop-off system. The bus ticket can be bought on board. You can opt for a single trip of €6.90 or daily tourist ticket of €15. Align at second stop for Pena Palace (the first stop is for the Moorish Palace). 

From the park entrance where the bus drop the passenger, one need to hike up to the Pena Palace and I found it quite challenging especially for my mom. Hence, we decided to queue up for shuttle bus and it's not free. A return trip costs €3 for each of us and the ticket can only buy from the ticket office. 

2018 Portugal Transportations to Sintra & Pena Palace

Here's the summary of the total cost for return trip from Lisbon to Pena Palace of Sintra:

Destinations
Intendente ® Rossio Metro Station
2.90
Rossio ® Sintra Railway Station
4.50
Tourist Bus 434
6.90
Park entrance ® Pena Palace via shuttle bus
3.00

17.30


Now, let's us start to discover and explore Pena Palace, shall we?

2018 Portugal Sintra 02

The exterior of the Pena Palace is utterly stunning and colourful - the terraces are vividly painted with mixture of yellow and red colour and decorative blue tiles in the middle. And seeing each and every details throughout the palace, now I know why this palace deserves to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. 

2018 Portugal Sintra 03

2018 Portugal Sintra 04

2018 Portugal Sintra 05

2018 Portugal Sintra 06

2018 Portugal Sintra 07

2018 Portugal Sintra 08

2018 Portugal Sintra 12

2018 Portugal Sintra 09

Being one of the most magnificent palaces in the world, no surprises Pena Palace draws millions of visitors flock to Sintra solely just to witness this with their own eyes. Due to this, expect it to be incredibly busy especially in the peak season. So, either arrive early as possible or 2-3 hours before the closing time cause in between 10am to 12pm, there's the time where couch tours arrive. Don't believe? Browse the two photos as below. The crowd was madly insane when we're there. 

2018 Portugal Sintra 10

2018 Portugal Sintra 11

Despite the cloudy weather (cause photos eventually would look nicer with a clear blue sky), I still found Pena Palace is absolutely impressive and fascinating. Out of so many palaces I ever visited, I can claim that Pena Palace is to be one of my most favourite besides the Peles Castle in Romania. 

Because the food options at the palace is expensive and very limited, therefore we opt to dine-in at Sintra town center. We hopped back to the tourist bus 434 using the ticket we bought earlier and drop of at Sintra town center. 

2018 Portugal Sintra Lunch & Gelato

ENTRANCE FEE FOR PENA PALACE
There are two types of entrance fee for Pena Palace:
1) Palace and Park Ticket - €14.
This allows entry to the Parque de Pena grounds, the terraces surrounding the palace and the staterooms. We bought this initially but because of the freaking long queue, we miss out from visiting the staterooms. What a waste!

2) Park - €7.50
The Park ticket provides entry to the Parque de Pena and the terraces. Majority of the visitors choose to buy this ticket because the main highlight are the colourful terraces and decorative battlements.

You can even buy from their official website (here) to beat the long queue. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Keep Safe & Stay Vigilant When Visiting Lisbon, Portugal (2018) - Part 3

So, now I've seen the best of Portugal's second largest capital, Porto and wondering what will Lisbon be? Will this capital city of Portugal as charming and beautiful as Porto, or it's just another overrated city to visit?

Let's find it out now.

IMG_20181011_171550

FROM PORTO TO LISBON WITH HIGH-SPEED TRAIN
2018 Portugal Train Porto to Lisbon 01

In my previous post, I shared that we took high-speed train from Porto (São Bento or Campanha) to Lisbon. The journey takes approximately 3 hours and it costs €18.50 for a second-class category. I prebooked my ticket via online and you may check the timetable and fare here. Normally, the booking opens for reservation two months in advance and I found the website is pretty simple (English language is available) and it's not that difficult to book from. The train from Porto to Lisbon-Santa Apolonia runs every hour and if you are lucky, you might get as low as €9.50. 

PICKPOCKETING IN LISBON
We're welcomed in Lisbon with an awful and bad incident - we're almost being victim for pickpockets. While on our way from Lisbon Main Train Station heading to our hotel, we took lift at the metro station since we have quite number of huge luggages with us. Just when we're about to enter the lift, two young guys were so rush to get in. They even jumped over our luggage and at that point of time, I started to smell something fishy. I was right - by the time we got out from the lift, both of my cousin and my backpack's front zip were opened. Luckily, nothing went missing cause we placed those our important handbags where we stored our cash and passport in front of us. These thieves are commonly targeting on tourists especially those with plenty and huge luggages - cause that's the time where you are busy carrying and dragging your luggage bags and you will be less focus on your other bag which store valuable items. Another shocking story shared by a friend of mine is that her wallet stolen inside church. Unbelievable! A holy place which you never thought of but it did happen. So be extra vigilant when you're vising Lisbon. 

WHAT WE DO & SEE IN LISBON FOR 2 DAYS

1) Tram 28 - This is the ultimate thing you shouldn't miss when in Lisbon. Take a ride on this nostalgic yellow tram and it will takes you up and down through most of the historic parts of the city. Unfortunately like we expected, it's one long queue by the time we arrived and it seems like not worth the wait. It's best to arrive early in the morning to beat the crowds. You can use Viva Viagem card (I will share it more later) or pay the ticket on board. Again another strong reminder: Beware of pickpockets here! Tram 28 is increasingly popular with pickpockets.

Nearest Station: Baixa-Chiado Metro Station

2018 Portugal Lisbon Tram 28 02

2018 Portugal Lisbon Tram 28 01

2) Alfama - It's the oldest neighbourhood of Lisbon and home to many of the city's best attractions; such as Lisbon Cathedral, National Pantheon and National Tile Museum. Walking through Alfama's narrow cobbled streets and steep staircases will unexpectedly lead you to a delightful and colourful ancient houses - this is truly a perfect spot for photo opportunity especially for the Insta-hungry travellers. 

2018 Portugal Lisbon Alfama 01

3) Time Out Market - Not in my list initially but somehow we accidentally bumped into this. I ever came across Time Out Magazine but I never thought there's a real Time Out Market. Time Out Market is the first ever market in the world where everything has been chosen, tasted and tested by an independent panel of city experts. This is where you can find all the Lisbon's best and finest food under one roof. We managed to savour a piece of blueberry cheesecake here and it's amazingly delicious. 

Nearest Station: Cais Do Sodre Metro Station
Opening Hours: 10am - 12am

2018 Portugal Lisbon Time Out Market

4) Praça do Comércio - Sitting on the northern bank of Tagus River and surrounded by classical 18th century building, Praça do Comércio is to consider to be the largest public square in Lisbon. Once known as "Gateaway to Lisbon", it is currently dotted with countless of cafes, restaurants and shopping venue. If you are looking for typical souvenirs like magnets, keychains and so on, you can find plenty of souvenir stores here. However, I personally think the souvenir stores along the pathway to Alfama offer better deal than here. 

2018 Portugal Lisbon Praca do Comercio 02

2018 Portugal Lisbon Praca do Comercio 01

2018 Portugal Lisbon Souvenir Store

5) Santa Justa Lift - Also known as "Carmo Elevator", this is the city's best-loved landmark and it offers spectacular viewpoint overlooking the city. This extraordinary structure where the elevator built inside a unique Gothic tower was built to transport the passengers from the lower streets of the Baixa district to the higher higher Largo do Carmo. 

Nearest Station: Baixa-Chiado Metro Station
Opening Hours: 9am - 11pm
Entrance Fee: 5.30 for a return ride. Free entry if you bought the 24-hour Carris metro ticket (€6 per person for 24 hour ticket includes unlimited rides on metro, trams, buses, funniculars and the Santa Justa Lift)

2018 Portugal Lisbon Santa Justa Lift-1

TRAVEL AROUND LISBON
Talking about public transport in Lisbon, it's actually pretty easy to navigate around the city with its extensive and efficient public transport network such as metro, tram, bus, funicular, urban train and even ferries. You can ever reach the airport (Aeroporto) under the red line and railway station under blue line with metro (you can refer the Metro map below). Although the metro announcement are made only in Portuguese, signs and ticketing machines are generally in bilingual in Portuguese and English.

mapsoflisbon

Before starting your journey around Lisbon, it's wise to get a Viva Viagem card. It's the easiest and faster way to pay the journeys on public transport in Lisbon. A card itself costs 0.50 and it's non-refundable. To load it, there are three options available:

Single Trip
€1.50
Day Pass
(Valid for 24h after first use)
Metro & buses

€6.40
Metro, buses & ferries
€9.50
Metro, buses & trains
€10.55
Zapping (Stored Value)
€3.00 - €40.00

To know about Viva Viagem Card, read more here.

2018 Portugal Lisbon Viva Viagem

OUR STAY IS LISBON
If money wasn't an issue, I would choose to stay somewhere near Baixa-Chiado metro station cause this is where most of the major attractions located. But because there are three of us and not many options available for a room of three, I booked our stay nearby Intendente metro station. Still not bad considering it's just three stations away from Baixa-Chiado and there's a shared kitchen within the property. 

2018 Portugal Lisbon LX Center Guesthouse 01

LX Center Guesthouse, Lisbon
Date Stayed: 11 October - 13 October 2018 (2 nights)
Room Rate: €60 per night for a triple room with private bathroom. There's an additional surcharge of €1 per person per night for city tax. Booked from Booking.com

TOTAL EXPENSES WE SPENT IN LISBON - PER PAX

PARTICULARS
AMOUNT
RM
Accommodation
LX Center Guesthouse (2 nights)
Add: City Tax (Per head per night)

Transportation
Metro around Lisbon

Food and drinks
Groceries for lunch and dinner

Others
Postcards and stamps
Magnets
Lisboa tote bag
Coaster

€40.00
€2.00


€7.75


€7.65


€7.60
€7.50
€4.00
€2.50

196
10


38


37


37
36
19
12

TOTAL
385
Note: Exchange rate&nbsp €1 = RM4.86 as at October 2018

The official currency in Portugal is the Euro (€).

2018 Portugal Lisbon Magnets
Magnets in Lisbon is relatively cheap. I found six for €5 in Alfama. 

PORTO VS LISBON
My verdict on Lisbon - I still think Porto is more better than Lisbon. Even both my mom and cousin seconded this too. One of the main reasons is due to the pickpocket incident. Though it was unsuccessful attempt, but this causing us to wander around with a worry heart. Secondly, it was overcrowded with tourists almost everywhere. I found Porto offers plenty of things to see than Lisbon. Even tram in Porto is more attractive than Lisbon's tram 28, to be honest.

2018 Portugal Porto Tram With Blue Tiles
Tram in Porto with blue tiles on it

My upcoming post, Sintra! One of the most beautiful palaces in Europe I ever visited - Pena Palace.

2018 Portugal Sintra 01

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

My 3rd Europe Solo Trip For Three Weeks (Sneak Peek)

Looks like my backlogs forever will never complete cause I just came back from another trip again. Yes, this is my 3rd round of solo trip to Europe after I experienced the first solo trip to Europe in 2017 as well as last year to Istanbul, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia. I never thought that I will get addicted to travel alone cause previously, travelling solo is never my cup of thing. But somehow, life hits me so hard and I realised life is too short and I only live once. If I don't do it now, then when? 

I can say this one is impulse buying (not again!) when I saw another hard-to-resist deal from Singapore Airlines June last year. And I don't know what got into my mind, I decided to book a three weeks trip in the end. Somehow, I did regret and almost want to cancel this trip of mine due to work commitments but with the support and encouragement by the boyfriend, I proceed at the end. Turns out many things I didn't book in advance - including hostels as well as ground transportation especially the intercity one. It's so not me cause normally I will book everything and plan my trip well prior to the trip. But I glad that everything went well and smooth though I encountered several uncomfortable experiences and issues.

Three weeks - I've been to 8 different countries and 16 various cities & towns and for this post, I specially highlight those I really love the most, such as:

2019 Europe Romania Peles Castle
#1: Peles Castle in Romania.
I spent almost a week travel around Romania cause there are so many beautiful and mesmerising cities and towns in this country that worth for visit.

2019 Europe Sofia
#2: Sofia, Bulgaria
I encountered an uncomfortable experience nearby the bus station during the beginning of my trip but then that don't stop me from discovering the beauty of Sofia.

2019 Europe Macedonia Skopje
#3: Skopje, Macedonia
Do you know that this is the birthplace of Mother Teresa? There is a small memorial house dedicated specially for her.

2019 Europe Macedonia Ohrid
#4: Ohrid, Macedonia
The downside of didn't plan the trip well. I did a day trip to Ohrid from Skopje and it's really a quick and fast visit. I should at least overnight at this amazing and spectacular deepest lake of the Balkans.

2019 Europe Kosovo Prizren
#5: Prizren, Kosovo
With its rich cultural heritage, cafe culture and mountain backdrop, Prizren is Kosovo's best kept secret.

2019 Europe Albania Berat
#6: Berat, Albania
One of the oldest town situated in southcentral of Albania, this town has its nickname known as "City of a Thousand Windows".

2019 Europe Montenegro Kotor
#7: Kotor, Montenegro
This is one and only town that make me stay for almost four days but still, I refuse to leave. Normally I will stay maximum of two days in a city/town and I chao immediately but not this one. Kotor does looks alike Dubrovnik to me.

2019 Turkey Istanbul 091
#8: "World's Largest Tulip Carpet" in Istanbul, Turkey
Back to Istanbul for the second time. However, I found out Istanbul is overcrowded with tons of tourists. I hardly visit any of their attractions cause everywhere long queue. But I glad finally I managed to witness the tulip festival after saw it from the Internet few years back.

IMG_20180517_095437
#9: Done with 6 out of 8 Balkans countries. Guess which two I don't make it.

P/S: Really wish that I can finish all my backlogs as soon as possible before my next trip is approaching soon. 

Monday, April 22, 2019

2 Days in Porto, Portugal (2018) - Part 2

When comes to talking about Portugal, the first city will instantly hit one's mind is none other than Lisbon. But then, have you ever heard of Porto before? Neither do I. I never knew about Porto until Mytravelmatez shared with me about this coastal city and he said I should make a visit there. And so here I am in Porto for another new discovery and adventures together with my mom and cousin all the way from London after spending three days three nights there.



























FLYING WITH RYANAIR TO PORTO FROM LONDON STANSTED
First time with RyanAir. I heard so much about RyanAir but never have I ever experienced it eventhough visited Europe couple of times, not until this trip. One way trip from London Stansted to Porto can be so cheap - it's like £17 (approx. to RM94) but after all those add-on such as baggage fee and seat selection, ended up in average we paid £46 per pax. Wondering why we rather pay for the seats instead of waiting for the time to check-in? Read below:

RyanAir London to Porto
#1: Got to experience flying with another new airlines again - RyanAir

Under the strict new rules starting May 2018, any passenger who arrives at the airport without having checked in beforehand will subject to a fee of £55. And even if you have checked in but arrive at the airport without your boarding pass, again you will being charged a boarding card reissue fee of £20. Bear in mind, you can only do web check-in and print your boarding pass within 72 hours from your scheduled departure time. This mean that anyone on a holiday of longer than three days, you might need to access the internet and the more hassle is you need a printer to print the boarding pass, which may not be easy abroad. To avoid all these hassle, I rather reserve and pay the seats and print in Malaysia rather than wasting my time trying to look for a printer in London. 

FROM PORTO AIRPORT TO CITY CENTRE
There is a metro line heading straight to the city centre from Porto Airport. The ticket can be purchased at the machine in the station. But because there was no one to guide us, I bought the wrong ticket. Luckily just one instead of three. The ticket is known as Andante and it's rechargeable ticket for the price of €0.60. As for the fare of the travel card, it depends on which zone you are travel to. Since the airport is consider in Zone 4, therefore a single trip cost €2. 

2018 Portugal Porto 00 - Porto Airport 01
#2: Aeroporto do Porto (Porto Airport)

WHERE TO STAY IN PORTO
If you are looking for an excellent and ideal location, probably you can take these two into considerations; somewhere close to Trindade or Bolhão stations. And I chosen the first one where I booked a short-rental apartment not far away from Trindade station.

2018 Portugal Porto HM - Bonjardim Duplex Charming Apartment 01
#3: Our two nights crib in Porto

Speaking about the apartment I booked in Porto, we kinda enjoy it cause it has almost everything - there's a kitchen for us to cook, two comfy beds for us to have a good night sleep, a clean and chic bathroom with basic amenities, excellent and great location within short walking distance to majority of the attractions. However, there's one and only major issue why I didn't give full rating is because there's no elevator. Imagine that the property is located on 4th floor and with our two huge luggage bags - it was absolutely like steps to hell while carrying our bags up.

HM - Bonjardim Duplex Charming Apartment
Date Stayed: 9 October - 11 October 2018 (2 nights)
Room Rate: €80 per night and it's fit perfectly for three guests (approx. to RM132 per person per night). Booked from Booking.com

EXPLORING & DISCOVERING PORTO 
Oh well! On the first day in Porto, we decided not to do any sightseeing but just walked over to nearby supermarkets to buy some groceries. The good part of travelling with mom is that she will prepare and cook a hearty meal for you so you won't feel homesick.


#4: A hearty dinner for three. Thanks mom!

Since we had adequate of rest the day before (more than enough), it's time for us to dress up, get out for another new adventures - exploring and discovering the second largest city of Portugal.

2018 Portugal Porto A Homecook Dinner
1) Mercado do Bolhão - Known as Bolhão Market, it's a traditional market where the local get their fresh vegetables, meat, fish and flowers from. The market is very close to where we stayed but unfortunately during our visit, the market was temporary closed for renovation. So close, yet so far. I guess my mom will be very excited if she get to experience the "angmo" market but what to do, luck wasn't on our side.

2018 Portugal Porto Bolhão Market

2) Livraria Lello - One of the oldest bookstore in the world, Livraria Lello is often described by visitors to be the most beautiful bookshop in the world with its stunning neo-Gothic architecture. It's rumoured that this bookstore was a direct inspiration for the world-famous author, J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter book series. I thought it's free to enter into this bookstore but I was wrong - one have to purchase ticket before entering and it costs €5. You can purchase the ticket online here

2018 Portugal Porto Livraria Lello 01

2018 Portugal Porto Livraria Lello 02

3) Igreja do Carmo - Not far away from Livraria Lello is The Church of Our Lady of Carmo. Obviously I was attracted by its remarkable large blue and white mural ceramic-tiled wall. 

2018 Portugal Porto 01

2018 Portugal Porto 02

2018 Portugal Porto 03

4) Ribeira - Tucked on the riverbank of Douro, it's one of the oldest neighbourhood and the most important historic centre of Porto. Here, you get to see a row of colourful and vibrant townhouses which making this place another Insta-worthy spot. Ribeira is lined up with plenty of traditional restaurants where you can savour some of Portugal's typical dishes which I will share more later. 

2018 Portugal Porto 08

2018 Portugal Porto 06

2018 Portugal Porto 05

5) Gaia - Just across Dom Luís I Bridge on foot whether in the bottom or the upper platforms to reach the other side in case you want to witness the picturesque neighbourhood of Ribeira, like what we did. But we walked through the bottom platforms cause the upper one not for the weakheart. And if you are looking for wineries and vineyards, Gaia is famous for it. 

2018 Portugal Porto 07

2018 Portugal Porto 09

6) Via Catarina Shopping - Before leaving Porto permanently, a trip without shopping is incomplete, especially for my mom. And so I found a shopping street located not far away from where we stayed - less than 10 minutes walk. We spotted a shopping mall with a pink facade attached in front of the building. The mall might be small but at least my mom managed to leave with something that catch her heart. She's happy, I also happy lor...

2018 Portugal Porto Via Catarina Shopping 01

2018 Portugal Porto Tram With Blue Tiles

FOOD IN PORTO

1) Pastel de Nata - This traditional Portuguese egg custard tart is obviously the most iconic pastry in Portugal and certainly there's no reason you could miss out cause it's everywhere across the city. We got ours from Manteigaria Bakery - the shop is nearby the Bolhão Market because some locals said this is as good as the famous one in Lisbon. One creamy custard tart costs €1.
2018 Portugal Porto Manteigaria Egg Tart

2018 Portugal Porto Manteigaria Egg Tart 01

2) Francesinha - One of Porto's most iconic dishes which you shouldn't miss. Francesinha is a Portuguese sandwich with steak, ham, fresh sausage, spiced smoke sausage and cheese in the middle covered with melted cheese and hot thick tomato and beer sauce. This mouthwatering sandwich will make you crave for more and no wonder it's being listed to be one of the 10 best sandwiches in the world. 
2018 Portugal Porto Francesinha

3) Bacalhau - It's a Portuguese word for salted cod fish. Since it's very popular in Portugal, hence we gave a try for it but frankly speaking, I don't really into it. I tend to eat the potatoes more than the main meal itself. 
2018 Portugal Porto Bacalhau

LEAVING PORTO TO LISBON
Guess my friend was right. Porto is indeed one charming and fascinating city that anyone shouldn't miss when comes to visit Portugal. Even my mom and cousin love this vibrant city too. Two nights might seem short but it's time to move to another city - Lisbon. To get to Lisbon, I decided to take the train simply because I love train ride more than bus. In Porto, the city is served by two major train stations; São Bento and Campanha station. Both stations will lead you to Lisbon but then if you are taking train from São Bento, you need to alight at Campanha station and change to another platform. Well, at least we didn't make the wrong choice for departing from São Bento station cause the station itself is such a beautiful sight to behold. As for my train ticket, I bought it online here and you may check the timetable and fare too.

2018 Portugal Porto São Bento Station 02

TOTAL SPENDING IN PORTO 

PARTICULARS
AMOUNT
£/€
RM
Airfare
RyanAir London Stansted to Porto

Accommodation
HM - Bonjardim Duplex Charming Apartment (2 nights)
Add: City Tax

Transportation
Andante Single Trip
Andante 24 hours
Train Porto to Lisbon

Admission Fee
Livraria Lello

Food and drinks (In Average After Divide 3)
Lunch – 1st day 
Groceries and fruits for dinner
Manteigaria Pastel de Nata
Lunch – 2nd day

Others
Postcards and stamp
Magnet
Shopping – Ipanema Sandal

£46


-
 €4.00


€2.60
€4.75
€18.50


€5.00


€12.63
€8.36
€1.00
€11.00


€6.00
€1.50
€19.90

249


264
19


13
23
90


24


61
40
5
53


29
7
97

TOTAL
974
Note: Exchange rate&nbsp €1 = RM4.86 as at October 2018

The official currency in Portugal is the Euro (€).

Before I end my post, do you know that Porto has the world's most beautiful McDonald's? Seriously no one told me about this until I accidentally bumped into the signboard reflected about this. Just by looking at the entrance of this McDonald's Imperial, there's a giant bronze eagle instead of the typical huge yellow "M" word. And when I stepped into the restaurant, I was amazed with the colourful stained glass window behind the counter. It's really impressive and mind-blowing - not like the McDonald's I used to know.

2018 Portugal Porto Most Beautiful McDonald 01

2018 Portugal Porto Most Beautiful McDonald 02

With this, now you don't have any excuse for not to include Porto into your Portugal's list cause trust me, there are more things to do and see waiting for you to discover in Porto.