Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Top 10 Things to do in Lisbon


Lisbon is considered the San Francisco of Europe because it’s a city of seven hills, trolleys and its 25 de Abril Bridge which resembles the Golden Gate bridge. In Lisbon you’ll find gorgeous tiled buildings in colorful neighborhoods, delicious food, and some of the nicest people I’ve met on my travels. Did you know Madonna lives there now? Portugal is one of the more affordable countries in Europe, English is widely spoken, and  you can get free WiFi in restaurants. There’s a lot of things to love about this city, and many things I never got to, but I’ll show you some of my top picks for visiting Lisbon. This was my second time visiting Lisbon and I can’t wait to go back! The best time to visit is in June as they have so many festivals that month including St. Anthony on June 12-13th where everyone parties in the street until the sun comes up.

The statue on the hill in the distance is Christ the King, it was inspired by the one in Rio, Brazil.



 1. Belem Tower & Monument to the Discoveries When you google pictures of Lisbon the Belem Tower is usually the first thing to show up as it’s sort of the symbol of the country as a little castle on the water. It was built in 1515 as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbor and now is a UNESCO world heritage site. The architecture is just stunning with Moorish style watchtowers. You need to buy a ticket in advance to visit or be prepared to stand in line for an hour. There’s a tiny spiral staircase leading to the top. A few feet away is the Monument to the Discoveries built in 1960 on the site where Portugal’s famous explorers departed on their voyages of discovery. It was built on the 500th death anniversary of Prince Henry the Navigator. Portugal is proud of their history of world navigators and they claim Christopher Columbus was Portuguese and some of his expeditions were sponsored by Portugal. Other notable Portuguese explorers are familiar names like Vasco da Gama and Magellan. 





2. Jeronimos Monastery Nearby to the Belem tower is the Jeronimos monastery built in the 16th century. This beautiful monument is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cloisters are beautiful with each column differently carved with coils of rope, sea monsters, coral, and other sea motifs, bring you back to that time of world exploration at sea. Vasco da Gama’s tomb is inside the ornate church which you can visit for free next door.


3. Praca do Comercio & Rua Augusta Arch This riverfront plaza is where everyone arriving by boat used to disembark so the arch was the gateway to the city. The arch was built in 1775 after the earthquake destroyed the area. There’s an elevator inside that takes you to the top for a great view. The plaza is surrounded by yellow buildings and mosaic cobblestones. The last couple weeks they put up a huge TV screen in this square showing the world cup games, and as you can imagine it was packed with people waving flags and everyone cheering on when they won their game!




4. Rossio Square & Jacaranda trees Our hotel was located near this square so we naturally ended up walking through it a lot. There were lots of people sitting in the square relaxing. There are two baroque fountains and the National Theatre at one end. Lisbon’s pavements are beautifully decorated with elaborate mosaic and cobblestone designs which you can see this square is a wave pattern. The square is full of purple flowering Jacaranda that smelled so fragrant! I was so lucky that my trip to Portugal coincided with their bloom. Lisbon has 2000 jacaranda trees that line the city’s streets so it was quite a sight to see purple trees everywhere! The Rossio train station had the most striking façade!




5. Alfama and  São Jorge castle The view from our hotel room balcony was of the Castelo de Sao Jorge, a Moorish Castle from the 12 century. Portugal is a country of castles, you’ll find them all over! You can take either a tram or the funicular Elevador da Gloria to the top of the hill to explore the Alfama neighborhood it’s in. There you can roam the quaint cobblestone streets admiring all the vibrant azulejos (elaborately painted tiles on houses) and terraces that gave stunning views over the city. The buildings in Lisbon are painted such pretty pastel colors like yellow and pink or have Portuguese tiles on them. You can spend hours getting lost in the labyrinth backstreets while taking so many pictures of this colorful neighborhood.



6. Carmo Convent The last earthquake that struck Lisbon was in 1755 which did a lot of damage to the city. The Carmo church roof collapsed and many arches were ruined. The Carmo convent was intentionally left roofless and now it houses the Carmo Archaeological Museum. This summer they have an immersive show called Lisbon Under Stars which is a unique experience that brings together multimedia projections, virtual dancers and visual effects, to the sound of Portuguese music. It was an incredible sight to see!


7. LX factory & murals  
Lisbon has fabulous street art all over the city, check out this article to see it. My favorite was this bee mural at the LX factory by Bordalo who uses trash to create his 3-D murals. His murals can be seen all over the country, the Fox mural is also in Lisbon. The  LX factory was once an old industrial warehouse but now has many restaurants, unique shops, hipster coffeehouses and this impressive bookstore. It’s a cool, off-the-beaten path place to explore.








 8. Lisbon is famous for its traditional Fado music which is a profoundly melancholic and expressive form of Portuguese singing that you can find in restaurants or bars.

 9. Pink Street & nightlife Lisbon’s Pink Street on Rua Nova do Carvalho is a street full bars and restaurants. We went to the Pensao Amor (Pension of Love) bar whose staircase has beautiful murals. Pensao Amor used to be a brothel so its décor still gives you that feeling. Each room is decorated differently, one has animal print fur wall paper, another room has a pole in the middle., vintage posters of burlesque dancers, large mirrors and chandeliers. The atmosphere has an intimate vibe. We just chilled with some cocktails starting out first with the traditional Portuguese amarguinha almond liquer made from almonds. Located in the Bairro Alto neighborhood of Lisbon, this is the central area of Lisbon's nightlife. Afterwards we walked down Rua Atalaia which is lined back to back with so many tiny bars.

 10. Food & drink Portugal is known for their sardines, in the summertime it’s fresh, not from a can. Every restaurant has them on the menu as well as codfish which is super popular. There are souvenir shops that only sell sardines, in cute packaging.  Lisbon also has quite a few vegan restaurants that I checked out.

Another quintessential Portuguese food is the “pastel de nata” which is an egg tart pastry that I ate everyday for breakfast. It’s a creamy egg custard in a tart. They were first created in the 18th century by Catholic monks in the Jerónimos Monastery. The monks used egg whites to starch their laundry so to stop the yolks from going to waste they made custard tarts. If you go to Nandos in the US, you will find them at the register in the desert case.



For a small country, Portugal makes a lot of great wine! They don’t drink tap water there so we always had to buy bottled water, and the wine was cheaper than the water. Yes grocery stores sold bottles of wine for less than 2 euro, restaurants sold a glass of wine for less than 2 euro. Vinho Verde is a popular white wine that I liked as it was a little sweet. You can’t visit Lisbon without trying Ginjinha! It’s a Portuguese liqueur made by infusing ginja cherries in alcohol which results in a strong and sweet alcoholic drink. Here it is served in an edible chocolate cup.



How to get there
United Air has direct flights from IAD to Lisbon. Or TAP Portugal airlines flies direct from Newark, but be prepared that they weigh everyone’s hand luggage and make you pay $50 for seat selection.  Both frequently have discounted $400 flights.


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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Pink Activewear


I've been obsessed with finding light pink workout clothes for years and only now are stores really starting to carry it so I couldn't be more excited! It's been especially it's been hard to find sneakers in light pink. Here's some pieces to deck you out from head to toe in pink.

Tops

Nike Women's Dry Tomboy Training Tank Top - I have this and love it! 

Pants

Athleta Eclipse 7/8 Tight in ballerina light pink

Shoes

Hat

Adidas

Don't be scared to wear colored pants.





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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Travel Accessories

I just got back from two weeks in Portugal and I wanted to share some of my must have travel accessories.


Packing Cubes  They help compress your clothing so you can fit more in your suitcase and keep you organized so you can find everything. It keeps your shoes separate so the dirty bottoms aren't touching everything else. The TSA can feel the outside that only soft clothing is inside so they may not pick everything apart. I really like these fabric grey ones because they look stylish.

Money belt The best way to keep your money and passport secure when you travel.

Jewelry organizer This 9x5 zipper pouch has various compartments for stud earring and a ring bar to keep your jewelry separate during travel.

Slim packing cube  This small cube is only 2.5 x 14 x 5 inches and is perfect to keep my undergarments separate and easy to find.

Travel scarf A great alternative to the money belt to keep your iphone on you when you fly so you don't have to keep a purse on your seat.

Portable iphone charger This charges my phone really fast and can charge it 2-3 times before you need to charge the charger. I had another one in the past but it wasn't as powerful as this one.

Cord organizer If you're like me you travel with multiple charging cords that are hard to keep track of.  This pouch has 5 inner compartments which make it easy to keep everything in one place.

Steamer This steamer is my holy grail and I am on my second one. I use it both at home to steam clothes and when I travel. It's so quick and easy to use! I can't remember the last time I ironed something.

Luggage tag On my last trip the luggage tag came off my bag in transit so I had to get a new and got this cute tag to match my pink suitcase.

What I want to buy next is an anti-theft purse but can't decide on a model. Everyone keeps recommending a Travelon bag which are made with all these security features to protect against pick pockets. I just can't decide on a model but obviously it will be purple. I'm leaning towards the small phone pouch one which is only  5 x 2 x 6.75, I just need to find out if it will fit my iphone 8 plus.






Friday, June 15, 2018

5 Activities to do in the Algarve


Scrolling through my feed on Instagram seems like Portugal is the place to go this year! The coastline of southern Portugal, known as the Algarve which means West in Arabic, has endless sandy beaches and is the perfect place to go for a sun-soaked holiday in Europe. There you’ll find breathtaking cliffs, castles, churches, palm trees, charming small towns and delicious cheap wine. I just got back from a 2- week trip to Portugal, my second time there. After seeing all the major cities, I took the train down to the Algarve to spend 3 days there, taking it slow to soak up all it had to offer. Here’s my list of top things to do in the Algarve.


 1. Explore the old town of Lagos, an Iberic word which means lakes, also the name of the capital of Nigeria. In Portuguese it is pronounced “La-goosh”. The narrow cobble stone streets of this small town are best explored by foot. The buildings are painted colorful colors or have mosaic tiles. The Moors settled in Lagos 2000 years ago as part of their maritime trade network. It was also through Lagos that the African slave trade entered Europe in the 15th century, you can visit the slave market museum in Lagos to learn more. The Church of St. Sebastian (Igreja de Sao Sebastiao) has a small chapel where the monks lined the walls with sculls. See the Castle of Lagos and the Fortress of Ponta da Bandeira which was used to guard Lagos by protecting the river from an attack. Sit in a café and enjoy some Portuguese wine while you people watch. Wine was cheaper than bottled water (they don’t drink tap water).


 2. The walled city of Lagos is also known for its fascinating rock formations, sea cliffs, grottos, and lighthouse that offer amazing views of the rocky coastline and Atlantic Ocean. I visited two beaches in Lagos: Dona Ana and Camilo which offer amazing scenery from the top of the cliffs. There’s a walking trail from cliff to cliff with picturesque views of the cliff formations and beautiful blue green water. If you want to go swimming, just be warned the water was quite cold in June. Surfing and kayaking are popular here. This was my favorite town and I would love to go back!


 3. Tour the coastal grottos by boat. I visited the Benagil Cave which is the most beautiful sea cave that only small boats can enter. The cave is so large it has a beach inside, but it’s not dark because there’s a hole at the top of the 100 feet cave that a huge ray of sunlight comes through. The water is a crystal clear turquoise color.


 4. Visit the town of Silves which has an amazing Moorish Castle. Throughout the town you’ll see tons of storks with nests on top of vacant buildings. It was quite a sight to see!


 5. Experience the nightlife in the lively town of Albufeira.


Practical Info How to get from Lisbon to the Algarve 
We took the train down to Tunes which was a 3-hour ride in an unconditioned car for only 12.5 euro since we bought our tickets in advance from the Portugal's rail website. The train station was very small so we were lucky to find a taxi. We flew home from Faro's airport to Lisbon.

How to get around the Algarve 
We didn’t rent a car, instead we utilized the local bus service Eva Transportes. We traveled from town to town for less than 5 euro. The drive time was between 30 minutes to 1 hour and only tourists were on the bus. Taxis between towns will run you 20 euro. Each town has a tuk tuk that is basically just a cheap transport around the town. Bring cash because a lot of restaurants don’t take credit cards. Lagos has money exchange places but other small towns do not. English was widely spoken in Portugal.


Typical tiled buildings

These purple jacaranda trees were all over Portugal and so fragrant!


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Trader Joe's Beauty Products




I know everyone is shopping the Sephora sale this weekend and I got my order in too, but I'm starting to be over paying $90 for a 1 oz product. Trader Joe's has started selling some amazing affordable beauty products. Here's what you can find on their shelves lately.

Rose Water Facial Toner
Rose water is known for its refreshing and hydrating properties (plus it smells like fresh roses). This also contains witch hazel, which has been hailed for centuries for medicinal and cosmetic uses, is known for its skin-soothing properties, and can help remove excess oils from your skin.  This mist-spray bottle is a 4oz bottle  for $3.99.

Facial Cleansing Oil
This chamomile-scented Cleansing Oil mixes with your skin oils, while also binding to surface impurities. When you rinse it away, the dirt departs but the delicate balance of natural skin oils is left undisturbed. It’s made from a unique blend of natural botanicals, including coconut oil, argan oil, Abyssinian oil, and vitamin E that all work together to break up impurities and moisturize. It is $6.99 for a 4oz bottle

Blueberry & Açaí Facial Scrub
Stored in a glass jar, this scrub smells like blueberry yogurt. It’s made with blueberry purée, açaí fruit extract, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) to gently exfoliate the skin, and colloidal oatmeal to soothe it. Also included are shea butter, meadowfoam seed oil, and various plant extracts to pamper you for $5.99.

Coffee Body Scrub
Made with ground Arabica coffee beans, sea salt, and sugar to exfoliate the skin, and vegetable glycerin, sweet almond oil, coconut oil, orange oil, and bergamot fruit oil to moisturize it. This is great if you have Keratosis pilaris skin. The 8oz tub costs $4.99.

Organic Argan Oil
With only one ingredient on the label, this 1.7 fl oz bottle retails for $6.99! Compare that to the price of Moroccan hair oil! Argan Oil is noticeably silky, lightweight, and non-greasy; it absorbs quickly, and yet is still deeply moisturizing.

Shea Butter & Coconut Oil Hair Mask
This stuff is amazing! It’s an intense conditioner, made with ingredients that will moisturize and protect your hair including coconut oil, Shea oil, Argan oil, along with a number of fruit and seed extracts, including blackberry, açaí, and sunflower seed. The 5.1 oz tube for $3.99 is a phenomenal value for such a high-end formulation!

Micellar Cleanser & Makeup Remover Towelettes
100% natural fiber cloths that feature a hypoallergenic micellar cleansing solution that’s formulated with emollient, softening and smoothing plant extracts. They contain no alcohol, no colorants, no allergens and no parabens. Each resealable package of 20 Micellar Towelettes is $3.99.

Refresh Citrus Body Wash
It’s a citrus-y formulation with orange, grapefruit, tangerine and lemon scents to truly “refresh” every time you cleanse. It’s made with vitamin C, chamomile, ginseng, ginger, essential oils, and vitamin B5. It was developed to nourish, moisturize, and leave your skin clean and silky smooth – refreshed. It's $2.99 for a 16 oz bottle.

Coconut Body Butter
This is a thick, smooth, buttery, body cream that’s made with pure coconut oil and other natural, skin-soothing ingredients, like aloe vera, shea butter and vitamin E. It absorbs into your skin very quickly, and doesn’t leave it feeling oily. An eight oz jar is $5.49.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Cruise Packing Tips


I just got back from my 9th cruise so I've compiled a helpful packing list.

  • Irons and steamers are not allowed on cruise ships so pick up a bottle of Downy Wrinkle Releaser
  • Highlighter pen - every night in your room you will find a printed program for the next day.
  • Refillable insulated water bottle to fill up with free water to take ashore with you that stays cold
  • Beach Chair Towel Clips - to hold your beach towel up on the beach chair
  • Packing cubes - this is how I pack
  • Seasickness relief - prescription behind your ear patch, Seaband pressure bracelet, Bonine or Dramamine
  • Hat - so important! Caribbean sun is so strong and you want to protect your forehead skin from premature wrinkles so you should be wearing a hat everyday
  • Nail file - I always forget to pack this and it seems like only on vacation do I have a nail emergency lol
  • Sticky Notes - to leave in your cabin for your travel companion to say where you are
  • Disinfecting wipes -  wipe down in your cabin the remote control, door knobs and light switches
  • Plastic bag - to bring home a wet swimsuit
  • Travel Scarf - to hide your valuables when you travel
  • Waterproof fanny pack - this is the best invention ever! You can go swimming with your phone if it's not waterproof
  • Travel Safe
  • Portable Phone Charger
  • Sunglasses, bandaids, sunblock, aloe for sunburn, large beach bag and flipflops
  • Royal Caribbean allows guests to bring one bottle wine per person when you first board the ship, so pick up a bottle from a liquor store in Miami and throw it in your suitcase.
  • Luggage tags - Cruise lines now make you print out your own luggage tag and staple it to your bag handle at home. Here's a plastic alternative you can purchase:





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Monday, April 2, 2018

5 TV Shows to Binge Watch




Orphan Black
I'm hooked on this series! There's 5 seasons that aired from 2013-2017. When Sarah witnesses the suicide of a woman who looks just like her, she assumes the deceased's identity, her boyfriend and her bank account. Soon, she finds herself caught in the middle of a deadly conspiracy. It's filmed in Toronto. Every season is a completely new story line and plot twist. 
Homeland  - Season 7 is airing right now on Sundays on Showtime, but I'm a season behind since I have to watch it on Netflix. It's a fantastic gripping drama, so much so that Claire Danes has won both Golden Globes and Emmys twice for her performance on the show which is highly deserved! Every episode is full of twists and surprises that it keeps me on the edge of my seat in suspense. I can't recommend it enough, you'll love it!

Here's the synopsis:
Carrie Mathison (played by Claire Danes) is a CIA operations officer on probation after carrying out an unauthorized operation in Iraq. As a result, she has been reassigned to the Counter terrorism center. While in Iraq, she was warned that an American prisoner had been turned by Al-Qaeda. When Nicholas Brody, a U.S. Marine Sergeant, is rescued after being held hostage since 2003, she suspects that he is the turned American prisoner. Brody is received home as a war hero, so Carrie goes to any lengths possible, ignoring protocol, to catch him out. And that's just season 1, each season is in a new location with new cast members added and subtracted.


Big Little Lies
Based on a book set in Australia, the book follows the stories of 5 moms whose kids all attend kindergarten together. I read the book first and kept the characters apart by remembering who played them in the HBO miniseries: Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, and Zoë Kravitz. The book begins by alluding to a murder that takes place at the end of the book, but you have to finish the book to find out who! The book has humor, mom rivalry, and vivid characters. The TV show takes place in tiny Monterey, CA and doesn't have as much detail as the book so I recommend reading the book first. Despite originally being billed as a miniseries, HBO renewed the series for a second season which will air next year. 



Will & Grace
Will & Grace has returned to the air after a 11 year hiatus! Best friends Will and Grace are roommates while both looking for Mr. Right. They have the most entertaining sidekicks - cocktail swirling Karen and her flamboyant boy toy Jack. This Emmy winning show is one of the funniest sitcoms on TV.  You can catch it Thursdays at 9pm on NBC or you can watch it for free online. It had eight seasons in the past, now on it's new run it's just been renewed for a third season! So you might want to catch up on all the old seasons for a good laugh.




Sons of Anarchy
Sons of Anarchy, aka SAMCRO, is a motorcycle club that operates both illegal and legal businesses in the small town of Charming, CA. They combine gun-running and a garage, plus involvement in porn films. Clay, the president, likes it old school and violent; while Jax, his stepson and the club's VP, has thoughts about changing the way things are, based on his dead father's journal. Their conflict has effects on both the club and their personal relationships. Starring Charlie Hunnam and Kathy Sagal, you have 7 seasons to watch! It's one of the best shows I've seen in a long time. 
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