How to experience the best of Paris like a local

 

While travelling around the globe, understanding local’s customs and way of life is important to feeling like you are connecting with the local culture and community. Paris is a place with deep-rooted traditions and is a city that offers a wide variety of possibilities for both locals and tourists. In 2018 around 40 million people visited Paris area, hitting a new record.

Recently, I asked in IG if you guys wanted to discover what do locals in Paris do. Due to the positive reactions I asked a raised and born Parisian boy to help me writing this post. Loic is a young engineer who is about to show you 10 iconic sights, secret spots and locations you should visit to experience the best of Paris like a local.

1. La butte aux cailles

A hilltop neighbourhood of Paris which was once home to countless windmills and many vineyards.

“It small streets and cozy bars contrast with the noisy, busy areas os Paris” says Loic. “This “oasis” is like a small village inside the city. A haven of peace for those who are looking to experience the real Paris.”

This historically working-class district has become the favourite area for hipsters and artist, providing him with a special charm free of international fashion stores and full of street art.

2. La rue Crémieux

At one time this little cobble street was a “secret place” few people knew about.

This is a colourful residential area which receives its name due to Adolphe Crémieux, a lawyer who defended the human rights of the Jewish people in France. Amid the colourful façades you feel more in Portobello than in Paris. That is the reason why this street is so special” he smiles “However, it is Instagram which is making this street famous”.

He is right, IG is becoming this part of the city the most Instagrammable one irritating its residents. So please, take this into account when you visit this street and avoid being laud and noisy 😉

3. Le parc des Buttes-Chaumont before chilling next to Canal de l’Ourcq

“A green, peaceful oasis in the northeast of Paris. From this park I suggest you to walk until “Canal de L’Ourcq” where you can enjoy a nice aperó at sunset”.

To better understand this park, I would like to share some facts with you.

Before “Le parc des Butter-Chaumont” was opened by Napoleon III, in 1867, it had a sinister reputation. Until 1760, the bodies of hanged criminals were left in this area after their executions. Nowadays, this pleasant spot in the middle of the city has 2.2km of paths, a lake, a suspension bridge and a temple called “Temple de la Sibylle”, a miniature version of the famous ancient Roman Temple of Vesta in Tivoli. A nice place to go for a casual stroll under the sun.

4. Le pavillon de l’Arsenal

A center for information, documentation and exhibition of the urban planning and architecture of Paris.

“Here you can better understand the evolution of the city of Paris throughout its architecture. You can also enjoy their regular temporal exhibitions about new architectural and urban projects. And, it is for free!“.

5. Restaurant “Au dernier metro”

Close to the Eiffel Tower there is a lively, welcoming restaurant where Parisians like to spend some time gathering with friends and relatives while enjoying a nice meal.

“It is an authentic Parisian restaurant. It is located in front of the metro. Here you can meet locals and enjoy a nice beer. My suggestion is to order a “planche de charcuterie” (a plate of cold meats & cheese) and a glass of good french wine”.

6. Have a crepe in “Le petit Josselin” next to Tour Montparnasse

“A small, cozy crêperie with tasty crêpes and galettes. It is located nearby the “Tour Montparnasse”. In fact, my recommendation is to first visit the top of the building Montparnasse and then to come downstairs and to enjoy a delicious “crêpe caramel au beurre salé” :)”.

7. Bar “À bulles”

Located next to Pigalle is a cozy bar/restaurant which offers a wide variety of tapas and local apéritifs.

“This bar is a hidden gem in the middle of Place Pigalle and the area of Moulin Rouge. They open from Tuesday to Sunday until 2 am in the morning, so you can either go for a drink in the evening or have lunch at midday.”

Find more information in the website: Bar à Bulles

8. Le Marais

“If you like to have brunch on Sunday morning this is your place.”

Le Marais is a historical medieval area of Paris converted into a bobo (bourgeois bohème) quartier full of wine shops, fashionable art galleries, fashion boutiques, trendy stores, restaurants and hotels.

“This area is a unique one. I like to meet my friends and go for a drink on Friday evening or a meal on Sunday morning. At the same time, every time I need to buy some clothes, I always walk around Le Marais and check all the stores. Here you can find everything!“.

9. Les Catacombes

The Catacombes are ossuaries located under the streets of Paris which contain the remains of around six million people. These ossuaries were created to provide the overflowed Parisian cemeteries with a solution.

The entrance to this underground cemetery is located in the Place Denfert-Rochereau, a square known by locals as the place where most demonstrations and protest marches in Paris either start or end.

“The Catacombes are a travel in time. They are a network of underground tunnels that you cannot find in many countries. To visit the Catacombes is a unique opportunity to understand the history of France.”

10. Cine UGC les Gobelins

Have you ever thought about going to the movies in Paris?

“If you ever plan to go to the movies while visiting Paris I highly recommend you to go to Cine UGC. This theater is located at the entrance of Mouffetard street, the party place of the city. So after the movie you can directly go to enjoy a glass of wine and a dance night.”

 

Your turn

Have you ever been to Paris? Is there any other hidden gem you would like to recommend us? In this case feel free to leave a comment below or to contact me via social network. I am alway thrilled to read your adventures and suggestions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Please, note that I am not an English native speaker. Therefore, you may find some spelling mistakes in this post. Feel free to let me know it and help me improve my English level.
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Discover Kenting

To continue our taiwanese trip we decided to drive to the southern part of the island.

Therefore, after spending a couple of days in the beautiful city of Kaohsiung, we took the Kenting Express bus to go to Kenting.

It took us less than two hours to arrive to this picturesque seaside town, whose lively streets welcome visitors with lights and music.

This part of the island is a tourist attraction for taiwanese and chinese people who want both, to enjoy some peaceful days at the beach and to discover natural parks.

If you are planning to visit Kenting, I highly recommend you to avoid chinese new year and summer season, since the national park can be really crowded and hotels can duplicate their prices.

Ready to find out what to visit in the unique seaside town of Kenting?

Kenting National Park

Kenting National Park (Eluanbi Park) is open from 7 am to 5:30 pm.

This area is a great spot if you are into hiking. I would recommend you to choose a non-rainy day to visit the park, otherwise, the path will be wet and slippery.

If hiking is not for you, you can always either rent a scooter or get a tourist bus to visit the National Park.

A nice spot located at Kenting National Park is the renowned Eluanbi lighthouse, nestled on a green grassy hill. Built during the Qing Dynasty, in 1883, this unique lighthouse suffered serious damages during the World War II and had to be re-built in 1962. Today, this iconic place is still functional and, at the same time, is held as a historical monument admired (and photographed) by tourists who visit the National Park.

Kenting Beach

A nice place to chill and get some sun while practicing different water activities such as kite-surf or snorkel. If you like calm crystal waters where to explore the deep sea, Kenting Beach is the ideal place for you.

Little Bay Beach

A more hidden, quiet place. Little Bay Beach is a small beach located not far away from Kenting Beach, however, this beach is more quiet and familiar than the previous one. Most of people visiting it are just families or couples looking to chill and swim in the warm sea.

This place is also interesting during the night because the snack bar located at the entrance offers live music until midnight.

If you are looking forward to eat chips and finger food while you get a tan, this is your place. Otherwise, you can always enjoy a nice sunset or a drink in the evening.

Sail Rock

Known as Chuanfan Rock is a huge piece of coral reef rock. The name “sail rock” was given to the rock due to its from,because, from a distance, the rock looks like a sailboat protruding out on the sea.

Situated next to the Sail Rock, there is a small sandy beach popular to practice snorkel, since the area is rich of aquatic life and coral reefs. If you are not into snorkeling, you can always lay down and enjoy the warm water.

Kenting Main Street

How many food stands and restaurants can coexist in one street? If you want to get an answer, come to visit Kenting Main Street where delicious traditional taiwanese food stands and occidental restaurants live together among traditional buildings, which turned into modern hotel rooms.

Something that I really liked about this street was the good vibes you could feel in it. Most of the people knew each other already, in fact, many locals owned a food/drinks stand together with other friends, as a way to earn some money during the weekends, and they were super nice with visitors 🙂

Your turn!

Have you ever been to Kenting?

This southern point of Taiwan is a unique place with a lot to offer.

Kenting National Park is the main attraction, however, Kenting beaches and the town itself have some special charm that makes the visitor feel somewhere else.

This part of the island is far from noise and pollution. It is the perfect place to disconnect from daily crazy routine and to re-connect with yourself and with nature. If you plan to visit Taiwan, I highly recommend you to spend a couple of days relaxing in Kenting. Furthermore, locals are super friendly!

Enjoy your time at Kenting and feel free to send me a photo via IG or Twitter. Share this post or comment below if you want to share your experience with us.

Next time we will travel to the north of Taiwan, to the capital of the island: Taipei. Meet you there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discover Kaohsiung – in (almost) two days

It took us around 2 hours to travel from Taichung to Kaohsiung in the rapid train. Once we arrived to our destiny we left our packages at the hostel and we started to explore this amazing taiwanese city.

What to visit in Kaohsiung

Kaohsiung 85 building

This dramatic 378 meters high building, called “Tuntex Sky Tower” was constructed from 1994 to 1997 and it had the honor to be the tallest skyscraper in Taiwan until the building of Taipei 101. Its elevator is one of the world´s fastest elevators reaching the 75th floor in only 43 seconds, at 600 meters per minute.

From 75 View Deck, the observation deck, visitors can enjoy spectacular panoramic views over the entire city and harbor. A good idea is to go there in the late evening to enjoy the sunset of Shou Mountain (promised we tried to do it, but we didn´t mange to arrive on time…) or to go early in the morning to admire the vitality of this incredible city.

Love River

Known as Dagou River in Qing Dynasty, this beautiful river gained the title of “Love River” due to its developed green park areas, which makes Kaohsiung Canal one of the most romantic places for lovers to date. At night, visitors can take boats on the east or the west coast to enjoy the charming views among the river.

Good news for bicycle lovers: A very long bicycle way was constructed, to wander on the pathways while admiring the beautiful landscape.

Lotus Lake

One of my favorite parts of the city is the well-known “Lotus Lake“.

Located in the old section of Zuoying district, this lake is surrounded by buildings close related to the ancient Chinese culture.

How is this possible? Easily. Lotus Lake is, as I previously mentioned, located in Zuoying district. This section has always been a historical one because it was established as a military fortress during the Qing Dynasty, to later on become a community of nationalist Chinese who fled to Taiwan when the Communist took over of China.

The lake is surrounded by a 3km path. There is also a road for tour buses, since this place is becoming very popular among tourists. Here it is easy to find visitors enjoying the pretty views of the lake and walking along the different temples in the area.

Starting at the southwest part of the lake, visitors encounter the beautiful Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. Following locals traditions, the dragon’s throat is the entrance and the tiger’s mouth is the exit. It is said that entering a dragon’s throat and coming out a tiger’s mouth symbolizes turning bad luck to good fortune. From the top of the pagodas visitors can enjoy beautiful views of the lake.

A little further down you can visit the Spring and Autumn Pavilions and the Wuli Arbor, which welcomes the visitor with a nice, ancient foot bridge. Spring and Autumn Pavillions, built in 1951, are dedicated to Kuan Kung (the God of War).

Confucius temple

Wandering along the path you will find the beautiful Confucius Temple. This is not 100% the original temple, since the original one was built in 1648 in a different location of the city. In 1960 the government decided to renovated and reopened some old temples around the country (abandoned during Japanese siege). The mayor of Kaohsiung mandated to build the temple next to the beautiful Lotus Lake.

To be honest, the mayor had a great idea! This place is seldom busy – most of the touristic buses do not arrive until here – and it is a great place to sit, relax and enjoy the view.

Rose basilica

This church was established during the Qing Dynasty, when Spanish missionaries arrived to Taiwan. It suffered a reformation in 1860, when it got its current name “Rosa Basilica”. Again in 1928, the basilica was reformed into a Renaissance-style architecture. The current Rose Basilica is the result of another reformation which took place around 1931.

Night Markt

Liuhe

Liuhe is the most touristic night market located in Xinxing District. In fact, this market is one of the most popular ones in the country. 

During the day, Liuhe 2nd Road looks like any normal road with tons of traffic, however, after 18.00pm things change a bit there…

The whole street turns into a crowded pedestrian market full of stands selling crab, shrimp, octopus and squids. Although this market is know due to the quality of its seafood, here you can also find other traditional dishes such as beef, papaya juice or snake meat.

It takes around 30 minutes to visit the whole market (always depending on how hungry you are and how many stands you want to visit 😉 We spent almost one hour there).

Guanghua

Located on GuangHua Road, this local night market is around 60 years old. At that time, street vendors gathered in from of GuangHua theater, where people went to the movies. After years of prospering, this night market expanded and it became the local night market of nowadays.

Over hundred vendors and shops are located here. Known for its cheap price and quality food, this night market is the favorite of locals.

Ruifeng

Doubtlessly the most popular and busiest night market in Kaohsiung. Located in the north part of the city, this night market is the ideal place to find all kind of food and shoppings choices.

Take the subway!

Does the name “The Dome Of Light” sound familiar to you?

This public art is the largest glass work in the world. Its vivid colors and unique design are located at the Kaohsiung MRT transfer station for the Red and the Orange lines (Formosa Boulevard Station). The renowned artist Narcissus Quagliata took four years to complete this piece of art, which tells the story of human life in four themes: Water, Earth, Light and Fire.

The immensity of this design cause tourists and locals to simply stop and to admire this unique monument.

Of course,it is becoming the “selfie place” of Kaohsiung by far.

Your turn!

Have you ever been to Kaohsiung?

This city is a charming place with a lot to offer. Discovering dramatic skyscrapers, cycling/wandering around Lotus Lake or trying taiwanese food at the local markets is an experience I highly recommend. Kaohsiung and its citizens are amazing!

Enjoy your time at Kaoshiung and feel free to send me a photo via IG or Twitter. Share this post or comment below if you want to share your experience with us.

Next time we will travel to the south of Taiwan. Meet you there!

 

Discover Sun Moon Lake Taiwan

Just 64km away from Taichung (2 hours by bus) lies the unique and dramatic Sun Moon Lake.

The largest body water in Taiwan is also home to the Thao tribe, an aboriginal taiwanese tribe, and a tourist hotspot, mostly during Chinese New Year.

This area offers some accommodations for those who want to spend some days discovering this enormous lake and its surroundings. In our case, we spent a whole day enjoying this majestic place before coming back to Taichung.

First thing we did after getting off the bus that drove us to the lake, was to take a plan of the area at the tourism information office and to check which activities we could enjoy.

Following you can find some information about Sun Moon Lake attractions:

What to do in Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake Circular Walk

After grabbing a coffee at a local cafeteria we decided to explore one of the walking trails at Shueishe Pier (the main pier of the lake). We figured out that we could have a nice walk among nature and take some nice pictures of the clear turquoise waters.

On our way we found some local fishermen and a couple of adventurous who, like us, were enjoying an early morning walk.

 

Sun Moon Lake Shuttle Boat

The quickest way to discover this beautiful lake and its green mountains is to take one of the various ferries that you will find at the Shueishe pier.

Since there are many different ferry companies I recommend you to take a look at this website “Taiwan Sun Moon Lake Boats“. Here you can find all the information related to the different boat operators, their prices and schedules.

If you decide to take a boat tour you will be able to see and visit the following places:

Shueishe Pier

Although Shueishe is the most tourist-oriented part of the lake, it is also a great area to have a nice walk, to enjoy nature and to visit some traditional places such as Longfeld Temple.

Ita Thao Pier

You can get off the boat at Ita Thai Pier and discover the old village of Thao tribe, the aboriginal taiwanese tribe. Here you can get lost among the narrow, colorful street and their food markets. If you want to try some traditional food and buy some souvenirs, this is a nice place to do it.

From the wharf you can enjoy an amazing view to the sun moon lake cable car.

Xuanguang Pier

From my point of view this is, by far, the most interesting spot in Sun Moon Lake.

Once you get off the boat you can enjoy a nice, an maybe crowded, walk until you reach Xuanguang Temple. This beautiful taiwanese temple was built to honor Xauanzang,  a prestigious monk who devoted his whole life to promote Buddhist teachings and it is still one of must-go places for many visitors to Sun Moon Lake.

However, this is not the only temple created to honor Xuanzang. At the top of the mountain, visitors can discover one of the most magnificent temples I have ever seen: Master Xuanzang Memorial Hall.

To be honest, you can reach the temple either by walk or by bus/Car.

I highly recommend you to discover the trail on the mountain, surrounded by nature and wild animals (Do not worry, they are afraid of people, so they tend to hide when you make noise).

We decided to invest some time at Xuanguang and to walk up the mountain until Xuanzang Memorial Hall. Surrounded by nature, we did not find any other tourist on the way – which was a huge surprise for us.

The first image that comes to my mind when I think about the temple is the dramatic views that the visitor can enjoy from its esplanade.

The temple is also really special. On the first floor, it is easy to find solo monks praying on silence. On the second and third floor, the visitor can learn more about Xuanzang story and the importance of this monk  who brought back the original Buddhist sacred texts to translate them himself.  This journey took him twenty years and, since then, his contributions to the Buddhist community were innumerable.

Lalu Island

Located in the middle of the lake, this tiny island was inhabited by Thao people. It is too small and fragile for tourists since it has been half disintegrated due to the building of a dam around 1930, as well as due to the 921-earthquake in 1999. However, you can have a great view of it from the boat.

You can dock the boat at either Shueishe, Xuanguang or Ita Thao Pier and get back when you are done with visiting each part of the lake.

Sun Moon Lake Bikepaths

At the very beginning I talked to you about the Circular Walk. If you prefer to ride a bike instead of having a walk, I recommend you to do not miss out this amazing bikeway that covers half of the lake and allows the visitor to enjoy great views as well as to take beautiful pictures.

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway

Sun Moon Lake Ropeway, with around 1.877 meters length, runs between Ita Thao Pier and Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. The cable car travels over two mountains with altitudes around 1000 meters.

This ropeway is used as a public transport by locals, as well as a touristic attraction by foreigners ready to enjoy a dramatic view of the lake. The cable cars are designed with three different colors: red, yellow and blue, which represent the sun, the moon and the lake.

Your turn!

Have you ever been to Sun Moon Lake?

This lake is a beautiful area with a lot to offer. Cycling, having a nice walk around the lake, getting ourselves lost among the streets markets and discovering dramatic temples is a unique opportunity you should not miss. This place is stunning!

Enjoy your time at Sun Moon Lake and feel free to send me a photo via IG or Twitter. Share this post or comment below if you want to share your experience with us.

Next time we will travel to the colorful city of Kaohsiung. See you there!

What to visit in Taichung

To start our taiwanese trip we will travel all around the city of Taichung, a taiwanese hidden gem chosen by locals as the best destination in Taiwan. The attractiveness of the city originates in its architectural mix, its lively streets, its mild climate and the kindness of its citizens.

Taichung is the second largest city of Taiwan with 2.7 million inhabitants and it is known to be the house of the famous, tasty bubble tea (still don´t know the taiwanese bubble tea? Just keep reading then 😉 ).

While endeavoring to achieve modernization with the construction of new, modern buildings as well as remember the past, Taichung strive to position as the second most important city of Taiwan (today this honor belongs to Kaoshiung).

What to visit

Let´s make a tour around the city to discover some amazing spots you should take into account when preparing your trip to Taiwan:

Central District

Konfunzious Temple

Built around 1976 Confucius Temple is a peaceful oasis in the middle of Taichung´s downtown.

This incredible temple follows the construction-style of the Song Dynasty by mixing sobriety and simplicity together with vivid colors and decorated roofs and beams. In the galleries located at the side of the main courtyard the visitor can find various classrooms and a library, where traditional arts are taught.

This temple is usually used by young couples as the perfect landscape for their pre-wedding photo album.

Yizhong Street Night Market

If you want to experience the real, ancient Taiwan lifestyle you CANNOT miss this unique night market.

Located closed to Taichung´s University, this area accommodate thousand of students willing to enjoy its young, trendy culture with many fashion stores and tasteful finger food such as stinky tofu (you can feel its smell since the moment you approach the market), baozi or fried chicken.

Among its specialities you will also find cold tea, watermelon juice and the famous bubble tea.

Haven´t you ever heard about it?

Bubble tea was invented in Taichung in the 80s. Although there are many varieties of this unique drink, the original recipe contains a tea based mixed with milk, tapioca balls (know as bubbles 😉 ) and fruit jelly such as lychee.

North District

Paochueh Temple

A nice walk from the city center will lead you to Paochueh Temple.


Beautiful isn´t it?. Wait to discover its dramatic (laughing) Buddha statue (the largest in Taiwan). I fell in love with it! 🙂

 

Feng Chia Night Market

Described as a “sensory feast for both eyes and palate”, this is the most touristic and large (around 1 km) market in Tiachung.  Always full of people (during the weekend around 30.000 people usually visit it), this market boast about exotic and delicious food such as crepes, stinky tofu, cheese potatoes, low-calorie ice-cream, bread with fried noodles and many more. Furthermore, due to its proximity to Feng Chia University, visitors can also find a wide range of low-cost fashion and tech stores.

Shengang District

Balloon Museum

Taiwan Balloon Museum is in fact an over-50-years-old balloon factory located in the residential area of Shengang. Here visitors can take an informative journey to discover how does the manufacturing process of balloons work. In addition, the museum offers rubber balloon DIY workshops and guided tours.

An original plan for children and not so children 😉

Taiping District

Earthequake Museum

On September 21, 1999, Taiwan experienced one of its worst natural disasters ever, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake that destroyed the central part of this amazing island. The earthquake museum was built in order to honor the victims of this catastrophe, as well as to raise citizens awareness and show them how to act in case of earthquake.

West District

National Taichung Theater

Ready to walk on the roof of an opera house?

The National Taichung Theater is an opera house and multifunctional space which includes:

  • Grand Theater: A 2007 seats cozy, red-themed theater
  • Playhouse: An ocean blue space where musicals and concerts usually take place
  • Black Box:  A black interior space for experimental theater performances
  • Outdoor theater: Covering 1000 square meters, the theater is surrounded by transplanted trees that creates a beautiful natural space, which, by the way, is linked to the Black Box
  • Sky Garden: Visiting the Sky Garden is like entering a different world. The space, surrounded by skyscrapers, is a great area for outdoor concerts. This sixth floor venue is accessible via elevator

National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

Great museum with exhibitions mostly focused on taiwanese art, although all the time there are temporary exhibitions. The building itself is splendid and it has been  rebuilt after the 921 earthquake.

Where to sleep

Love I

Located just a short 4-minute walk from Feng Chia Night Market, it is a pretty cozy place, nicely decorated and with own private bathroom.

Talmud Hotel

Located in the central district, 1-minute walk from Yizhong Street Night Market is an ideal european style hotel with private bathroom and taiwanese breakfast.

Wowwow House

Located near by Taichung Park and surrounded by restaurants, Wowwow House is a taiwanese cozy hotel whose rooms own private bathrooms.

Where to eat

Street food

  • Fengchia Night Market
  • Yizhong Street Night Market

Hint: Try both stinky and spicy tofu. Tasty!!!

Hot Pot

  • Modern Toilet

European Food

Japanese Food

  • Chung You Department Store

Did you like the post? Motivated to include Taichung in your bucket list? If you want to share more information about this dramatic city feel free to leave a comment below 😉

To say goodbye I want to share more pictures with you (Remember: Next stop Sun Moon Lake 😉 ):

 

 

 

 

8 reasons why you should visit Taiwan

 

After 22 hours travel (including three flights with Cathay Pacific – first time with them and I fell in love with the company), a 3 hours sleep night and two films + 3 episodes of Sex and the City, I finally arrived to Taiwan 😊.

Let me confess that this wonderful country was not in my bucket list. In fact I had never thought about visiting it until a good friend of mine moved there. So, I basically took my decision based on a good friendship. What am I trying to say? Well, let’s be honest: I had no clue about what I could expect from Taiwan. I had no idea about the country, its people, its culture…

Now that I am back in occident I can strongly say that Taiwan should also be in your bucket list, in fact, you should consider Taiwan as your next holidays destination.

To understand why I am saying this I want to invite you to visit my blog within the next weeks, when I am going to tell you more about this amazing place and I am also going to give you a lot of tips to prepare your trip.

Today, to start this blog series about this idyllic asian island I would like to share with you the 8 main reasons why you should visit Taiwan.

Are you ready? Then… Let´s go!

1. The people

No words to describe the kindness of Taiwanese people. Even though most of them do not speak English, they are always willing to help you.

Yes! This trip allowed me to improve my chinese skills 😊

2. The wide amount of beautiful temples

Taiwanese are quite religious with many beautiful temples dotted all around the country.

Do not feel a little intrusive when visiting them, locals are extremely welcoming to tourist that do. However, do not forget that temples are sacred buildings where some rules should be followed.

In the coming weekends I will show you some of the most amazing temples in Taiwan.

3. Taipei is home of the 8th biggest building of the world

Taipei 101 (the figure denote the number of floors) was the tallest building in the world until 2010. This is not only a business building, but also a great place for tourists. From its observation deck on the 91st floor the view is dramatic (I will tell you more on a post dedicated to Taipei 😉 )

4. The dramatic landscapes

When Portuguese sailors first saw Taiwan in the 1500s they literally fell in love with the landscape of the island. In fact, the called it “Ilha Formosa” (beautiful island) and the name remained until the arrival of the Ming dynasty.

5. They have a balloon and an earthquake museum

Can you believe it? I was so amazed when I found out about the balloon museum… I couldn´t even imagine the existence of such a museum!

And the earthquake one? Thanks to it I learnt that Taiwan sits on the same earthquake “ring of fire” as Japan and California.

In 1999 Taiwan experienced a magnitude 7.3 earthquake, its worst in recent memory, which killed 2.400 people. Apparently, the museum was created to inform and raise awareness on how to act in case of an earthquake.

I have never heard about this kind of museums. What about you?

6. Taiwanese food is considered one of the best of the world

Ready to try it?

Within the next weeks I will give some hints about where to eat in the different cities that we will visit together 😉

7. The hiking trails

Taiwan offers tourists a wide hiking trails opportunities, from light treks to real climbs. One of the most known places to hike are Taroko National Park and the beautiful Kenting National Park.

8. Their night markets

While the country is pretty lively during the day (let´s say from 10.00 am onwards), it is when the sun goes down when the island of Taiwan really wakes up and becomes alive.

Taiwan is full of night markets where you will find delicious street food, clothes and tech products. If you really want to understand the Taiwanese way of life, you must definitely visit its night markets.

Taiwan Post Series

Ready to visit the country now?

Within the next weeks we will start a trip visiting many different places such as Taichung, Jiufen, Kenting or Taipei on the blog.

Together we will discover more about the taiwanese culture, its history, its food, its people and its traditions. (If we are connected via IG, I am sure that you have already seen some of my taiwanese pictures 😉 )

Our first stop will be the dramatic city of Taichung.

Next week we will discover more about the third largest city of Taiwan and, at the same time, the most traditional one.

Have a nice week and see you soon! 🙂

 

* when I talk about “tourists” you must take into account that Taiwan is not known for being an international holidays destination, so most of the tourists visiting the island are local or chinese ones.

Visit Bilbao & Eat Pintxos

Last year Bilbao celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Guggenheim museum, a building that supposed an urban relaunch in which the industrial past of this city was overlaid with green areas and modern architecture.

Most of art lovers around the world started to look at this city as “the next place to visit”, almost all Spaniards got rid of their prejudices and the most relevant travel experts placed Bilbao (finally) on the map. Thankfully, the old Basque traditions still remain intact. Despite the constant growth in visitors’ number, Basque people still maintain their ancient soul. Eating pintxos and supporting Athletic de Bilbao are still part of their lifestyle.

Bilbao is a great city for people interested in food, architecture, history and even music (Bilbao yearly hosts different music festivals, the most popular one is the BBK Live, maybe you have already heard about it).

Although the vast majority of visitors come to Bilbao attracted by the Guggenheim Museum, most of them go back home having discovered an unique place full of charm. And that is what I would like to show you with this post, a living city opened to embrace visitors and to share their culture with them.

What to visit in Bilbao

Casco Viejo

A good way to start discovering Bilbao is to visit the core of the city, the place where it all started: “Siete Calles” (Seven Streets), the old town of Bilbao.

Bilbao, as we all know it, started as a seven streets village located in the middle of two mountain ranges which gained importance in Spain due to its port activity. Nowadays, the old town looks much different as before. Its ancient narrow streets are closed to traffic allowing the visitor to get lost among renamed places such as the 14th century Santiago Cathedral, the Unamuno square (which honors the Spanish writer with the same name), Plaza Nueva (the most important square of the old town reconverted, nowadays, into a “place to be” for all pintxo lovers), Mercado de la Ribiera (the ancient Bilbao´s market, nowadays reconverted into a modern one. Check it here: http://www.lariberabilbao.com/en/ ) and Teatro Arriaga (the historical theater of Bilbao)

The neighboring area of Bilbao La Vieja has a similar history and vibe but it has started to attract artists and gallery owners, after years of controversy. This renovated part of the city is becoming popular among young and middle age people who like to try new, modern restaurants.

Museums

Leaving the old town and walking along the river side we start our way to the two main museums of the city: the Museo de Bellas Artes (Bilbao Fine Arts Museum) and the Guggenheim.

Although the Guggenheim take most of the credit, Bilbao´s ancient museum always organizes a great program of temporary exhibitions. Both museums complement themselves.  On the one hand, the Museo de Bellas Artes, which is part of the city landscape since 1914, has one of the best collections of paintings made by many great Spanish masters like El Greco, Velazquez, Zurbarán or Goya. The Guggenheim museum, on the other hand, has one of the most renowned modern art collections of the world. Its temporary exhibitions as well as the permanent collection are in line with the groundbreaking architecture of the building. Two of the most popular outdoor artworks are the Puppy, a terrier carpeted in bedding plants created by Jeff Koons, and Maman, a tribute to  Louise Bourgeois´ mother created in form of a spider.

Downtown

After this cultural visit I would recommend you to enjoy some refreshment before exploring. A good street to recharge your energy  is Pozas, a traditional meeting point for locals.

Following I will show you three different ways to walk from the Guggenheim until Pozas (do not forget the name of this place 😉 )

River path

Leaving the Guggenheim and walking along the river side we start our river path. As you may already know, Bilbao experienced an architectural transformation the last 20 years which meant a radical change not only on its image to the outside world but also on its economy.

Walking along the Nervión (Bilbao´s river) is a good way to understand and to discover this transformation. Next to the Guggenheim we can find two modern university libraries (one belonging to the private and the other one to the public university) located just in front of one of the most ancient buildings of Bilbao: the renowned University of Deusto.

If we continue our way, we will find the highest building of the city: La torre Iberdrola, a modern office  building. Straight forward we reach Doña Casilda park (better known as the ducks´ park) from where we can observe the modern Palacio Euskalduna, a theater and conference hall.

Just walk a couple of steps more to reach Plaza Circular (Circular Square) in Gran Vía, the commercial and financial centre of the city, and the new San Mames football stadium.

At this point we should remember that Bilbainos (people of Bilbao) are really pride of their football team. Why? Since more than 100 years ago, heritage and tradition are hugely important to Athletic de Bilbao Club. In a football world ruled by money and globalization, Athletic has a complete reliance on their cantera (youth basque players playing for Athletic Club in youth league). This non-written policy implies that every player who pulls on the famous red and white shirt is drawn from the Basque Country. This special non-written rule is the soul of Athletic Club that attracts fans not only from Bilbao but from all around the world. If you are one of those who think that this policy could create an inferiority between Athletic and other Spanish teams, let me surprise you by telling you that Athletic is one of the three clubs never relegated from “La Liga” (the others are Real Madrid and Barca).

Starting from this point, just a couple of meters away from San Mames,  perpendicular to Gran Vía, we arrive to Pozas.

City path

Leaving Puppy behind our backs we will start this path which will lead us to Pozas.

Streets such as Mazarredo, Elcano, Iparraguirre or Alameda Rekalde make up the modern “art district”. Among them it is easy to find art galleries, modern pintxos bars as well as gift and antique stores. At the end of this area we will reach Gran Vía, the financial centre of Bilbao, a 1.5 kilometers street long between Plaza Circular and Plaza del Sagrado Corazón. The halfway point is Plaza Moyua (Moyua square), home to the Carlton Hotel and to the shopping area of the city.

Although Moyua contains historical, dramatic buildings, one of the most interesting monuments of this square are the subway entrances.

Designed by Norman Foster, Bilbao´s subway stations are station-caverns made of stainless steel and glass. Inside, the stations are a large basilica-style gallery with two platforms. Outside, at the street level, the entrances are circular canyons made of glass. The renowned architect changed Bilbao´s landscape with this perfect example of engineering and architecture combination. You can find subway stations almost all around the city. It is well worth visiting them.

To reach our destination we just need to walk through Alameda Recalde until Pozas or to enjoy a ride in the subway 😉

Image found on Google Image from the blog Arquitectura en Red

 

Parque de los patos path

Although its real name is “Parque de Doña Casilda” this beautiful park located in the middle of Bilbao is popular known as ‘”Parque de los patos” (Ducks´ park) due to its lake usually crowded by lovely ducks and swans.

At the entrance of this city´s little green lung, appears the previously mentioned Museo de Bellas Artes, whose outdoor exhibition welcomes the visitors of the park. Walking through Doña Casilda Park we can discover a huge variety of trees and plants until we reach Indautxu, a centric area of Bilbao which offers a wide range of stores and businesses, although it is particularly noted for its many pintxos bars and ancient constructions.

Where to eat: The tradition of Pintxos

Pintxos are skewered and bite-sized foods, traditionally pierced with a cocktail stick to attach them to a piece of bread. They range from traditional pintxos to mini haute cuisine experiments such as grilled foie with a cream of blackberry and warm flavoured cheese. When going to have some pintxos, it is important to know that there is no need to order them, you can directly take them from the bar counter. Do not forget to don´t throw away the toothpick attached to it, you will need them to show the barman how many pintxos you ate, so that he can charge you accordingly.

Locals usually eat one or two pintxos with a glass Txakoli (traditional Basque white wine) or Zurito (a small glass of beer) before moving on to the next bar. Resist to sample every pintxo in a single bar, there is always another bar around the corner with more amazing pintxos waiting for you! 😉

But, where can I find Pintxos in Bilbao?

Let me show you the best streets to enjoy this tasty bite-sized foods.

Pozas

The famous Pozas Street is back on the post! Yes, if you remember we came walking from the Guggenheim until Pozas to have some refreshment after our cultural visit to the dramatic Frank Gehry´s building.

Here there are traditional bars such as Restaurante Sotera, Zaharra or Restaurante Serantes. From Pozas, you can follow your gastronomical route in Calle Maestro Garcia Rivero (best pintxo bar of the street: Gozatu) or in Plaza Campuzano (traditional Pintxo bar: Bar el Estoril, highly recommended).

Plaza Nueva

Years ago Plaza Nueva looked different, nowadays it is the new Bilbao´s pintxos area. Reconverted in “the place to be”, many new bars are opening their doors in this part of the old town. The best ones? I would like to recommend you: Bar Sorginzulo, Bar Zuga and Bar Gure Toki. All of them have a great pintxos variety.

Diputación

Classics never die.

Diputación is a small square located in the downtown, nearby the council office (ES: Diputación), full of traditional Bilbao bars. I recommend you to try at least one pintxo in each bar:

  • Bar el Globo: Most popular pintxo – Pintxo de Txangurro
  • Café la Vina: Do not forget to eat jamón there. They have the best one in the entire city
  • Bar Zurekin: Try one Pintxo de Bacalao
  • Bar la Olla: Really tasty Tortilla de Patata

What else to visit in Bilbao

Before leaving this beautiful basque city I would like to recommend you a couple of places more to visit:

Artxanda

You can take a cable car in Plaza del Funicular, a couple of meters away from the city hall, up to the hill to see a fantastic view of Bilbao from above. It is worthy!

Basílica de Begoña

Built on the site where the Virgin appeared in the early sixteenth century, this Gothic Basilica is the sanctuary to venerate the Virgin of Begoña, patron saint of Bizkaia. Thousands of tourists and pilgrims (the Way of Saint James pass through its main arcade) visit this one of the greatest symbols of the city.

Getxo

Ready to drive to the coast? Just take the modern city subway and go to Las Arenas. Have a walk around, visit Puente Colgante and walk along the river side until you reach the beach. Fantastic views!

If you travel in summer you can also go to Larrabasterra or Plentzia to enjoy the beautiful, wild basque beaches.

Did you like the post? Do you want to recommend us another spot? Do you have any question regarding this city? Just leave your comments below or via social networks: FB, IG, Twitter

Have a nice trip!

 

3 amazing places to visit in Montenegro

Visiting Montenegro had always been on my bucket list. In fact, exploring all its bordering countries is an experience that I would like to make come true one day. Therefore, the minute we planned our trip to Croatia we knew that we were going to visit the neighbour country of Montenegro.

The initial ideal was to travel until Budva with the car and to explore different spots on our way to that city, however, the weather did not co-operated with us so we had to change our plans.

Finally, we decided to travel until Kotor and to stop spontaneously on the way when we saw any dramatic spot.

Our journey started in Dubrovnik early in the morning (by the way, I still have to write a post about the amazing city of Dubrovnik, in the meanwhile you can find more spectacular croatian spots by clicking here) under a grey sky who reminded us that autumn was around the corner.

Although the weather was not as good as expected we did not care that much about it because our appetite for adventure was enormous, so we had the chance  to stop in many different amazing places located beside the Bay of Kotor.

Perast

Located beneath the hill of St.Ilija, Perast is an historical old town of the Bay of Kotor. Although its cobblestone streets are full of history (thousands of tourists stop by during the year to admire this small town, which was the center of many historical empires battles throughout the centuries) they were really quiet that day. I supposed that its less than 300 inhabitants would rather stay at home than walking under the rain.

One of the main attractions of this charming place is the artificial island known as “Our lady on the rocks”, where a Roman Catholic Church is located. According to the legend, the islet was made over the centuries by local seamen after finding an icon of the virgin Mary on the rock in the sea

To access to this unique place it is necessary to go by boat (you can buy tickets at Perast´s port for around 4€).

Since the weather conditions were not good enough to navigate to the islet we decided to stay in Perast and have a walk around the town.

As the weather was getting worse we decided to keep traveling to Kotor.

We thought it would be better to visit the city of Kotor where we could find some warm places to have a cup of coffee every time it rained intensely.

Kotor

An enormous port, full of immense ferries, welcomed us in our arrival to the city of Kotor. After the first impression (I think I had never seen such huge ferries before) we discovered an enormous wall with a stunning gate. Since Kotor was settled during the ancient Roman times, the almost 5km wall was the perfect construction to protect the city from possible attacks.

The ancient wall enclosed a beautiful city brimming with charm and history. One of the most renewed place is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Tryphon, built in honor of the patron and protector of the city around 1166.

The famous main square, Piazza of the Arms, offers the tourist restaurants and cafes from where to enjoy the well preserved facades of the city and its old buildings made of stone. (We ended up having lunch in a non touristic street surrounded by locals. I would like to recommend you the place where we went but actually I do not know how we ended up there… So, if you go to Kotor just give a chance to its touristic restaurants and let us know if you like them 🙂 )

However, what really got our attention was something I had never seen in other countries. Kotor is full of stray cats, in fact, these animals are part of the city.

They are present in each corner, in every souvenir store, even it exists a cat museum in the city!.

As we found this “cat-love” really fascinating, we decided to ask some locals about it. They explained us that cats were considered as good luck symbols, however, no one was sure about the origin of this belief.

After spending the whole day visiting historical places we decided to come back home no without stopping in another beautiful montenegrin town.

Bar Stari Grad

A small town famous due to its ancient ruins (I had no pictures of the ruins… Sorry…!! It rained cats and dogs!).

This was a great experience & we are sure that we will be back, but next time in summer when the sun shines and the temperatures are higher 🙂

I hope you enjoyed the post, it was a short trip but intense 🙂

Have you ever been in Montenegro? Which spot do you recommend? Feel free to share your thoughts 🙂

 

 

 

 

Best places in Germany

Unlike many people think, Germany is not a grey, serious and rainy country but an interesting place to discover something new every day.

After a couple of years living here I have had the opportunity to visit not only the well-known German metropolis such as Berlin or Hamburg, but also small ancient cities and the countryside. If you are willing to come to visit Germany in an unconventional way (by visiting some “non-so-touristic” places) keep reading this post because this week it is starting the “Best Places in Germany” post series. Are you ready to discover this remarkable country?

Best places in Germany (of the week):

Monschau

The first time I heard about Monschau was in December 2014, when I friend of mine advised me to visit its Christmas market. Since I could not do that (it is worthier to visit it during the week, instead of during the weekends) I decided to give this old town a chance during the summer time.

Located nearby the Belgium border, Monschau preserves an ancient style, which provides this small city with a special charm. The city center is divided in two by the Rur river, consequently, the two parts of the city are connected by ancient bridges.

What to visit in Monschau

  • Christmas market

Although I could not visit it (not yet 😉 ) I can imagine the importance and the magnitude of this market, since one of the most visited places in the city of Monschau it is its Christmas store (open all year)

  • Castle Monschau

Most part of the castle is in ruins nowadays. Reused as a hostel after the IWW it is the perfect location to host summer concerts.

  • Market square

The heart of the city. Here the visitor can find restaurants, ancient buildings with flowerbox adornments and remarkable spots to be amazed with the mountains surrounding the city.

Heidelberg

Heidelberg is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany, as well as one of the most important student cities.

Ancient castles, narrow alleys, hilly streets  and beautiful parks and gardens are part of the landscape. Its university is the oldest in Germany and famous for its medical faculty. In Heidelberg, everything is within easy reach either on foot or by bike.

What to visit in Heidelberg

  • Heidelberg Castle

The castle, one of the most important renaissance structures, was started to be constructed in 1210 A.D. and, although, it has been destroyed several times due to different wars it preserves its ancient splendour.

It is worth to visit the main attraction of Heidelberg and it can be seen from each corner of the city.

  • The Altstadt

Down in the Altstadt (the old town) there are plenty of narrow streets and squares full of restaurants, stores and cafes. The main square, Markplatz, is a cute place where to enjoy a good cup of coffee or a Rothhaus Pils, one of the most famous beers of Heidelberg.

  • River Neckar

Having a walk along the River Neckar is always a good idea to avoid the crowds and to re-discover Heidelberg. The view from this side of the river is really cute and, if the weather is good, this area of the city is the best place for a picnic.

  • Alte Brucke

The Alte Brucke (Old Bridge) can be discover after passing through a remarkable medieval gate. The bridge dates from the 18th century and it is the most visited bridge of the city.

Düsseldorf

And last but not least, the beautiful city of Düsseldorf.

The capital of the NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia) Region reflects the development that this area of Germany suffered some years ago.

The old industrial city of Düsseldorf led to a modern, cosmopolitan city, centre of fashion, glamour and international businesses. Known as the german city of fashion, Düsseldorf has the honor to have been ranked as the 6th world´s best city to live in beyond other important cities such as Frankfurt or Berlin.

What to visit in Düsseldorf?

  • Mediahafen

To understand the transformation suffered by this remarkable city it is important to have a walk around its “Mediahafen”. The old port was rebuilt into a modern area full of international business, restaurants and hotels. Frank Gehry, in charge of this transformation, built the most emblematic buildings of this area.

  • Altstadt

The old town is the core of the city. Full of narrow, car-free streets is the best place to discover the ancient Düsseldorf.

  • Königsalle

Ready to have a walk surrounded by the best fashion firms of the world? Just visit the Königsalle.

Special tips:

  1. From the Rheinturm the visitor can enjoy a strinkingly view of the city
  2. Benrath Schloss (the palace of Benrath), located 15 minutes away from the oldtown by subway, has beautiful gardens and tasty home made cakes
  3. Bilk is the best area to enjoy a good meal under the sun
  4. Stadttmite is the place-to-be for sushi and japanese-culture lovers (more than 10.000 Japanese live in Düsseldorf, the largest community in Europe)
  5. An “altbier” tour should be compulsory ;). Do not forget to try the traditional Düsseldorf Beer!

Have you ever been to Germany? Which are your favourite places? Share your thoughts!! 🙂