Posts Tagged With: food

Culture of the Algarve

An urge to satisfy the travel cravings and a need for sunshine led Charlotte, my #1 travel bud, and me to spontaneously book a flight to the beaches of the Algarve region in Portugal despite our lack of knowledge on the destination. Our ignorance led us to believe that Faro, Portugal was a random Ryanair drop-off location, but with a few quick Google searches, the Algarve revealed itself to be one of the most overwhelmingly popular tourist destinations known to the EU.

There are two sides to the Algarve. To the right of Faro, one can find the tourist hotspots like Lagos and Albufeira where crystal clear water, sandy beaches, and natural caves are bustling with vacationers. To the left of Faro are the waters less traveled with beautiful beaches, nature reserves, authentic food, and most importantly–culture!

Our adventure began in Albufeira where a 5 pound shuttle conveniently took us direct from the airport to our hotel. We loved the blue view of the Atlantic from our 3-day tanning post on the sandy shores. However, we couldn’t help but feel like we were trapped inside a snow globe spotlighting a perfect holiday town sprinkling tourists from the sky.

It is when we traveled to Olhão, Portugal that the real adventure began and the beauty of the Algarve was discovered. An easy and cheap 40 minute train ride took us to the largest fisherman’s town of the Algarve– Olhão. Just our stay at Pension Bicuar Residential was enough to make everything about Olhão a home away from home. Owned and operated by a lovely Malaysian couple with an inspiring globetrotter couple from New Zealand temporarily working at the B&B for 3 months now, they made us feel very welcomed giving us a tour of the place and filling us in on the life of Olhão.

On the first night in Olhão, I awoke at the early hour of 4am unable to fall back to sleep. Not wanting to waste my time with tossing and turning in bed, I went up to the rooftop of the B&B to watch the sunrise over the Moorish-style homes in this coastal town. I wasn’t the only one awake though. Just a short walk from our B&B, fishermen were hard at work at the port bringing in their fresh catches of the early morning to fill an entire market featuring a variety of fish big and small.

As explained by the lovely New Zealand couple, you can’t go to the fish market with a list because what you see is what they caught that morning! They also explained that the bell heard at 10 am that same morning was to alert the town that a huge fish (like shark status) was caught! I didn’t find the big guy, but here are a few shots from the market…

After exploring the fresh fish and fruit markets, both of which close at 1pm, we hopped on a ferry to the local islands. With 3 islands to choose from–Ilha da Armona which is reachable by one ferry and Ilha da Cultara and Farol reachable by another and connected by their sandy beaches–we ventured to Ilha da Farol. The ferry took us along the Ria Formosa nature reserve to the island well-known for it’s operating lighthouse (aka farol in Portuguese) along the white sands and crystal clear waters. As we made our way from the ferry dock to the beach, we passed through the simple and well-decorated homes of the island taking in the lifestyle of the locals and imagining their day-to-day commute into the city of Olhão for work, shopping, and what not.

We enjoyed a lovely day on the beach tanning our paled UK bodies under the burning sun of Portugal. And best of all, we enjoyed being surrounded by locals and embracing the culture of the Algarve.

 

Our Portugal Trip in a nutshell:

Overall– An affordable trip with an average total of £300 spent for a 5 night stay.

Airfare– Approx. £110 with the budget airline, Ryanair

Accommodation–

  • Albufeira: Hotel da Galé– approx. £20/night for a standard room with two twins. Simple 2 star hotel, basic accommodation. Perks: Rooftop pool, sick view, close to beaches. Negatives: Friendly staff but not very helpful or informing, bathroom is not the cleanest, bar never opened, WiFi but in lobby only.
    • My rating: 2.5/5 stars
  • Olhão: Pension Bicuar– approx. £20/night for a standard room with two twins. Well-decorated and comfortable B&B. Perks: Rooftop tables and chairs with a great view of the town, next to the ferry and markets, amazingly friendly staff. Negatives: None! WiFi could have been better but who needs that anyways when on vacation!
    • My rating: 5/5 stars

Food–

  • Albufeira: Approx. 8-15 per meal. Drinks approx. 4 for beer, 12 for a jug of Sangria
    • Food was pretty touristy and not very authentic. Lots of fish and chips haha
  • Olhão: Appox. 4-12 per meal depending. Can get seafood for a very good price.
    • Amazing seafood everywhere!!! 8 seafood lunch buffets.
    • Best tapas place which is a must try and loved by locals–7 Imeio Wine Bar

Ferry from Olhão to the islands: Approx. 4 roundtrip!!

Shuttle to and from airport: 10 total

 

My biggest travel tip for you—Explore the waters and roads less traveled and stick to the left side of Faro, Portugal if you want to experience the true Algarve!

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Categories: All Blog Postings, Europe, Portugal, Travel Stories | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taipei By Night

From intricately decorated temples to gorgeous seaside sunsets, Taipei, Taiwan offers a plethora of tourist attractions. But it’s when the sun goes down that Taipei comes to life. With the blazing hot and humid climate, the 7pm sunset makes the heat a bit more bearable thus creating the perfect environment for Night Markets found all over the city.

Trying Stinky Tofu at the Taoyuan Night Market

A happy oyster omelette from Taoyuan Night Market

Traditional Taiwanese foods such as steamed buns, shaved ice with fruits, and the infamous pig’s blood cake and stinky tofu (yes, it’s as smelly as it sounds) are sold from stall carts lining the streets of the market along with clothing items, jewelry, and colorful knick knacks. (Note**– Those wishing to buy clothing from the night markets are required to be hipless and bootyless).

Our fabulous tour guides and friends showing us around the Taoyuan Night Market

If you have the opportunity to go with locals, do it! They will show you the Night Market experience done right! Around every corner, a new mysterious food was purchased and placed into our hands. We tried foods such as an oyster omelette, soup dumplings, and of course the stinky tofu. We never would have thought to purchase these fine delicacies on our own and we are more cultured because of it! The Taiwanese love to meet and entertain foreigners in their city and show them the true Taiwan so don’t hesitate to make friends. They will love you!

New friends Tiger and Vivian showing us around the Tong Hua Street Night Market

The most popular yet overly crowded night market is the Shilin Night Market. Though it is a must visit for all tourists, test out others on different nights for a more local and relaxed experience. Great locations include Tong Hua Street and the Shida Night Market. The Danshui Night Market in New Taipei City and the Taoyuan Night Market located just outside Taipei are great local spots as well.

Daringly trying Pig’s Blood Cake (just a bite) at the Shilin Night Market.

Sunset along the coast of the Danshui Night Market– New Taipei City

Categories: All Blog Postings, Asia, Free Things to Do Abroad, Taiwan, Travel Babble | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Harrods and Eataly of Paris

Looking to splurge on top brands in both the fashion and food industry all at once? You’ll be in heaven at Le Bon Marché and La Grande Épicerie.

Le Bon Marché

Established in the 1800’s and constructed by Louis Charles Boileau and  Mr. Eiffel himself, Le Bon Marché serves as the oldest department store of Paris. Though not quite the enormity of Harrods, Le Bon Marché bears a close resemblance to one of the oldest (and most expensive) department stores in London. ‘The Good Market’ hosts floor after floor of high fashion names including Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, and Marc Jacobs among other big name brands. Also on display are items from the Le Bon Marché brand, furniture, and pricy toys for the kiddies. Don’t forget your credit card!

View of Rue du Bac from the connecting bridge.

Connected by a bridge overlooking Rue du Bac in the 7th arrondisement, La Grande Épicerie remains the largest (and fanciest) grocery store in the city. La Grande Épicerie serves a similar purpose as New York City’s Eataly by creating an interaction between customers, their food, and those who make it.

La Grande Épicerie

Well-known and rare brands alike flood the shelves with bountiful selections of spices, ingredients, fruits, meats, and anything your heart desires. Looking for that jar of American peanut butter or marshmallow Fluff you’ve been craving in Europe? Or what about that special tomato sauce you can only find in Italy? Among imported goods, one can find fresh food from all cultures ready to eat or take home for some good cooking. And best of all, Saturday and Sunday are sample days! Goût (taste) fresh seafood, sweet pastries, wine and champagne, and fresh juice made before your eyes (with a €300 juicer).

Sample Time! Fresh Salmon!

Le Bon Marché and La Grande Épicerie are a must see in Paris on any day, but especially a rainy one (and chances are when you are visiting there will be at least one…so plan accordingly!)

Address:

Le Bon Marché

22 rue de Sèvres, 75007

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Bread Festivals and A Night at the Museums

I now understand where the saying “April showers bring May flowers” comes from…Paris! Despite the flooded and lackluster April month, May has brought sunnier days and beaucoup festivities.

It’s no secret that Paris is full of sweet surprises. It’s also no secret that my stomach acts as my brain. So it’s safe to assume that most of my discoveries are made with the use of my super sensor. On this particular day, my nose led me to La Fête du Pain.

In celebration of Sainte-Honoré, the saint of bakers, 7-day Bread Festivals are held France-wide to honor the country’s staple food. This year, from May 14-20th, such a festival was held in front of the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris.

La Fête du Pain at the Notre Dame

With the crisp sent of fresh bread invading large white tents, baking professionals came out to show off their skills and share their delicious creations. On one side of the tent, cute French kiddies sported paper hats as they rolled out the dough for their own sweet treats. On the opposite end was a rose making station. Grab a dough circle, dab on some water, and start petaling away to create an enchanted dough rose. And in the center of all the action is where the art form could be seen rising to life in bread ovens.

French kiddies baking bread

Dough Roses

Baking professionals hard at work

Freshly baked bread from the oven

From inside the bread factory to the outside stalls selling the finished products, this festival was a party for the eyes, the nose, and the taste buds!

Up Next: Trade in bar hopping with a dose of museum hopping for one spectacular Night at the Museums — Paris edition…

Continuing the cultural celebrations around France and all of Europe was the 8th annual Nuit Européen des Musées. Hundreds of museums offered free entry and alluring events from dusk-1am on Saturday, May 19, 2012. And Paris did not disappoint with its night at some of the most prestigious museums known throughout the world.

Edgy art closet at 59 Rivoli

With over 200 choices and less than 7 hours to museum hop, pre-planning was essential. The options were endless with events that suited all interests! A treasure hunt through Musée des Arts et Métiers, glow paint and games at Musée National du Sport, an American folk music concert at Musée de la Musique, planetarium shows at Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie. There really was something for everyone. And free coffee tastings at Les Arts Décoratifs proved beneficial for sleepy museum hoppers with a busy night ahead!

Coffee break at Les Arts Décoratifs

These are two of the several events that happen only once a year. The beauty of living in Paris versus merely visiting are the rare opportunities to embrace local culture. The art of baking and exquisite masterpieces goes beyond what is seen in patisseries and the Louvre.

To see firsthand the work that goes into baking one fresh baguette from the early hours of the morning allows one to understand why it is said the only good bread is ‘Traditional French Bread’. To experience a night where museums come alive under the vibrant city of lights embellishes the ideals of Paris. Most importantly, such spectacles open the door to the dynamic world of French art and culture.

“I dream my painting, and I paint my dream”– Vincent van Gogh
For future travelers making a visit to Paris in the month of May, here are some helpful resources for these unique events:
Urban Pulse app– This app is  available for iPhone, iPad, and Android phones. It allows you to find events and deals all around Paris and other cities around the world. During Nuit des Européen Musées, this app allows you to find when and where all events are happening, the wait time for each, and more.
Categories: All Blog Postings, Free Things to Do Abroad, Paris | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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