Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Exploring Portugal: Vibrant Lisbon

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Famous 28th tram in Lisbon

Editor’s Note: Anastasia Chernykh (the social media manager for My Life’s a Trip) just came back from Lisbon  with rave reviews. I asked her to do this post for the blog. Her images have me craving a trip to Portugal. – Jen Pollack Bianco 

The number of foreign tourists visiting Portugal has exceeded 10 million for the first time in 2016. Portugal has been named the destination of the year (Travel+Leisure), most popular place to visit in 2017 (Huffington Post), and on top of that the city has won Best European Destination World Travel Award. Everyone seems to be going to Portugal now, and I can see why!

I flew to Lisbon after a short trip to Paris, and it was such a great difference. Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely love Paris, but Lisbon felt so welcoming, cozy and warm after a big rainy city. Like a visit to an old friend.

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Lisbon fashion tip: blend into city colors!

You know a city is tourist friendly when you don’t need to spend  hours to get from an airport to its center. Lisbon airport is just 6 miles away, and has several transportation options including metro, bus, and taxi. The weather is pleasant here all year round. The climate strongly influenced by the Gulf Stream, it is one of the mildest climates in Europe (imagine 6-month long summer!).

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Azulejo tiles on Lisbon buildings are part of the city’s bright creative look

We stayed in an old city part called Alfama. I would say it’s one of the most interesting and iconic parts of Lisbon, but it’s not everything. You may not want to take famous 28 Eléctrico as it’s usually notoriously overcrowded, but use it’s route as a map for your own tour since it covers almost all main landmarks.

Walking seems to be the best way to explore old center of Lisbon, or the most convenient at least. It’s not a good idea to use a car in the city unless you are prepared to spend hours in traffic jams and looking for parking space. Cycling also doesn’t seem like a good idea, since Lisbon is located on seven hills, some of its streets have tram lines, potholes and an absence of designated bicycle lanes.

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Narrow streets of Lisbon

For me, Lisbon is not that much about sightseeing as about experiences. So try to live like a local in Lisbon instead of visiting:

Start your morning with pastéis de nata (an egg tart), this is the most famous local pastry and it’s delicious. Cafe culture is a very important in Portugal (fun fact–Portuguese colonists initiated the first coffee plantings in Brazil). The local coffee lingo is a bit different, for example espresso is often called bica, and for locals it’s normal to have at least 3 bicas a day. You won’t be able to stroll down a street in Lisbon without passing at least several of cafes.

After that, try to climb up to one of the several main Miradouro (viewpoints). The one near Santa Luzia church, for a breathtaking view of the city with its old terra cotta roofs.

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View of Alfama quarter and river Tagus

Lisbon doesn’t really have any ocean access or beaches, but it has long avenidas in front of river Tagus – Avenida Infante Dom Henrique and  Avenida Ribeira das Naus. Walk down the first to get to Praça do Comércio, one of the main city’s squares that was completely remodeled after the horrible Lisbon 1755 earthquake.

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Praça do Comércio with Statue of King José I 

The square is connected with the other traditional square Rossio, paved with typical Portuguese mosaic, this square is filled with cafes and restaurants, with a train station of the same name nearby.

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Praça do Comércio as seen through Arco da Rua Augusta

Keep walking along Avenida Ribeira for great sunset views of the 25 de Abril Bridge. There are several spots where people seat along the waterfront and enjoy the beautiful sunset views with another local specialty, porto wine.

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25 de Abril Bridge sometimes is compared to Golden Gate in San Francisco

Port is a world famous fortified wine from Portugal, produced exclusively in the Douro Valley (that’s where the city of Porto is located, hence the name of the wine). There are several styles of Port, including red, white, rosé and an aged style called Tawny Port.

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Vibrant sunset colors kept changing every 5 minutes

Looking for day trip options from Lisbon? Try visiting a small town Sintra. It is located only 20 miles away from Lisbon and packed with attractions.

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Entrance to Rossio train station, trains to Sintra run every 30 min

With its many 19th-century Romantic architectural monuments, Sintra is now classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and attracts visitors from all over the world. Royal retreats, estates, castles and other buildings, including the mediaeval Castelo dos Mouros, the Pena National Palace and the Sintra National Palace, are giving the town almost fairytale look.

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Sunset in Sintra

From Sintra it’s easy to go to the Westernmost point of the Europe, Cabo da Roca. The cliffs of Cabo de Roca were believed to be the edge of the world up until the late 14th century. Sunset is the best time to visit this dramatic landscape.

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Exploring Maui, Hawaii: Sunset Stroll and Happy Hour Picks in Wailea

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The Mana Kai Maui during golden hour

During my amazing girls trip to Maui our base for the first few days was the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort. Our first night on the island we took a walk along the beach towards Kihei to enjoy the sunset views.

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Sunset fishing spot in Kihei

There are a couple of great happy hours in Kihei with stunning views. Sarento’s on the Beach and the 5 Palms at the Mana Kai Maui are both excellent locations to take in the sunset and enjoy an adult beverage.

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White sand beach during golden hour at Kamaole Beach Park

If you just want to stretch your legs, there are quite a few lovely public spots to take in the stunning views of Maui.

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Golden girls during golden hour

The public beaches are all easily accessible via foot including Kamaole Beach Park I, Kamaole Beach Park 2 and Kamaole Beach Park III. Walking through them is enjoyable because you’ll see plenty of locals playing in the surf and walking their dogs in these parks.
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Dog walk at Kamaole Beach Park

After dark, I highly recommend heading to the Andaz Maui where guests can enjoy roasting marshmallows poolside. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, it’s worth dining at Morimoto Maui for their sushi and Japanese menu (the hamachi tacos and chicken ramen soup are stand out dishes).

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Curves and clouds at Kamaole Beach Park

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Golden hour at Kihei’s Kama’ole Beach Park

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Toasting marshmallows poolside at the Andaz Maui

If you don’t want to do the walk after dark, an Uber X costs about $4 to take you from Kamaole Beach Park back to the Andaz Wailea.

Sarento’s on the Beach

2980 South Kihei Road
Kihei, Maui, HI 96753
Phone (808) 875-7555

5 Palms
2960 S. Kihei Road
Kihei, Maui HI 96753
Phone (808) 879-2607

Morimoto Maui
3550 Wailea Alanui Dr.
Wailea, HI 96753
(808) 243-4766

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Exploring Ukraine: The Ghost town of Chernobyl

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Walking along Chernobyl-2, a secret Soviet radar fed by infamous nuclear power plant

Editor’s Note: Anastasia Chernykh, the social media manager for My Life’s a Trip, recently took a trip to Chernobyl, the site of 1986 catastrophic nuclear accident. I found her images powerful and interesting and asked her to write up this guest post. I hope you find this photo essay as fascinating as I did. – Jen Pollack Bianco, Editor in Chief

We keep hearing the weird beeping from time to time. It’s dosimeter, a device in our guide’s hand showing the current amounts or radiation.

“No worries” says the guide, “our route is mostly safe, on usual tour you’ll get about the same radiation you’ll have on an hour flight at 20000 meters altitude. But you’d better not go anywhere off the road or step on the moss growing on side streets.”

Thirty one years after the explosion, and ten years after authorities allowed tourists in Exclusion zone, Chernobyl became a widely advertised attraction. Every day at least couple of buses bring in crowds of tourists to visit the ghost city of Pripyat, newly established safe confinement for Reactor #4, and, if lucky, see giant species of catfish.

The explosion that happened in Ukraine on April 26, 1986, remains the worst nuclear power plant accident in human history. It was more radioactive than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Thirty one people died during (or immediately following) the disaster.

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Reactor No 4 under New Safe Confinement

Geiger counter at 1.27 μSv/h in Chernobyl (for comparison natural background radiation at airline cruise altitude is 2.7 μSv/h) 

The first check point is 30 kilometres (19 mi) from the reactor, the beginning of the “zone of alienation”.  To get through the cordon prior registration and ID is required. This area is mostly uninhabited, except for a few residents who came back after evacuation, despite Ukrainian officials estimated the area would not be safe for human life again for another 20,000 years.

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An alley in Chernobyl with plates naming every city in Exclusion Zone

But even after evacuation had begun, the world didn’t know anything about the accident. Only on 28 April, after radiation levels set off alarms at the nuclear power plant in Sweden, the Soviet Union made a public announcement about the accident.

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Abandoned buildings in Chernobyl

The residents who fled were told to take only enough belongings for 3-5 days, as the evacuation was temporary. So most people left everything behind, unaware that they would never return. Now tourists can visit the frozen Soviet reality. It’s a real life time capsule.

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People were told to leave everything behind

More than 100,000 people were forced to leave, but the evacuation has another side-effect. Without competing with humans for space and resources, local wildlife population started to grow rapidly. Wild horse crossed our path once, and the cutest highlight of this trip was fox feeding!

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Wild Horse X-ing

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Feeding the fox near Chernobyl Power Plant

In 2011 another part of Chernobyl’s mystery past was opened for visitors: Chernobyl-2, Soviet radar installation, powerful enough to detect an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile. 150 meters tall and 500 meters wide, radar is incredibly impressive structure, some say even more impressive than the rest of the tour attractions. It’s now a silent reminder that Chernobyl nuclear plant wasn’t built only for civilian purposes. A huge amount of it’s power was meant to feed the giant radar.

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Chernobyl 2 radar installation

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Nature taking it’s course over the main square in Pripyat

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Amusement park in Pripyat

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In Ukraine, we used to hear about Chernobyl disaster a lot. Mostly at school, but also on television and radio, you’d read about it in the newspapers.  To the rest of the world Chernobyl itself started to be a synonymous of something wicked and scary. But after this visit to the Exclusion zone my I feel like I changed my mind. Chernobyl is not scary anymore. It is most of all very sad.

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Chernobyl tours depart from Kyiv, Ukraine, prices start at $78 per person. Private tours available on request.

 

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Exploring Norway’s Lofoten Islands: a Photo Essay

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Ana walking around the Bend in Fredvang

When I was planning my trip to the Lofoten Islands of  Norway, I wanted to see (and photograph) the Northern Lights. But like much of life, it’s not the big highlights that make up all of my memories of the trip. Part of the charm of the Lofoten Islands is that they are small, scenic and sparsely populated. This combo can make them a dream for photographers.

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Sheep in the Lofoten Islands

The pastoral scenery of Northern Norway is lovely. Fjords with small clusters of fishing cottages and small farms filled with sheep. There were several places worth pulling over to the side of the road to take a photograph or wander a bit.

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Fall frost in the Lofoten Islands

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Portrait of Ana near the Fjords in Northern Norway

Renting a car (or having access to one) is essential in this part of Norway. As the days grow shorter, many businesses tend to close for the season so you’ll need a vehicle to get from place to place. Norwegians do the sunbird thing and flock to the Canary islands for sunshine and a lower cost of living.

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Ana on sandy Ramberg Beach

I was most surprised by the white sandy beaches in the Lofoten Islands. They add some unexpected atmosphere and charm to the dramatic landscapes and were delightful places to walk even on a windy autumn afternoon.
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Ana stopping traffic in the Lofoten Islands

Businesses in Svolvær are more likely to be open year round, and it makes sense to stay here off seasons. Many of the smaller restaurants and rorbu (fishing cottages) in smaller towns like Reine and Hamnoy close seasonally for some or all of the winter. If you are visiting during the off-season, be sure to take some snacks with you. Ana and I found our hunger kicked in during off hours and the nearest open grocery store was some distance away.

 

 

 

 

 

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Free JetSmarter Helicopter Transfers in NYC

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Boarding the helicopter transfer at the West 30th Street Heliport

My husband got me a JetSmarter membership as a present recently and it’s officially become my favorite luxury travel app. Like all private aviation, JetSmarter does not come cheap (rates are going up June 1st, but you can get membership until the end of May for $$9,675 annually plus a one-time initiation fee of $3,500. Details at bottom of this post).

Some video of my Blade flight over the Hudson River

While this may seem steep at first glance, it’s a bargain if you are used to paying full fare for first class travel between New York and Los Angeles. One way First Class airfare on American Airlines costs $2019. If you regularly fly bi-coastal, JetSmarter can be a great value for money.

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Cool view sitting next to the pilot

One of the best things out of the best things about being a JetSmarter member is the free helicopter transfers to and from Teterboro and Westchester airports to the West 30th Street Heliport in New York City.

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Helicopter pilot at the controls

JetSmarter also offers helicopter transfers to the Hamptons from Manhattan and from Chicago airports to the Loop.

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Above the Hudson

If you ask nicely, you can sit next to the pilot when you take off from the West 30th Street Heliport. Keep in mind, this side of the chopper is away from the NYC skyline when heading out of the city.

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The view through the passenger side door

JetSmarter is raising rates in June to $10,000 annually plus a one-time initiation fee of $5,000.

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Headed to HPN Airport in Westchester

I’ll do a post in the future detailing the LA to NYC JetSmarter shuttle experience.

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The View after dark into NYC is dramatic and beautiful

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Obligatory helicopter selfie

JetSmarter

500 East Broward Blvd., 19th Floor,
Fort Lauderdale, USA, FL 33394

+1 (888) 9 VIP JET

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(Please mention Jen Pollack Bianco when contacting JetSmarter) 

JetSmarter App on iTunes

 

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