Posts Tagged ‘UNESCO world heritage site’

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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Scenes from a Day Trip to the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, Tanzania

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An elephant in the Ngorogoro Conservation area

During my stay at the Four Seasons Safari Lodge in the Serengeti, the staff arranged for me to take a full day trip to the Ngorogoro Crater Conservation area. The Ngorogoro is one of Tanzania’s great treasures, and a stunning place to see unique landscape and wildlife.

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Red earth, white clouds, and saline lakes in the Ngorogoro Crater

The Ngorogoro Crater Conservation Area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The crater is the centerpiece for the area. It’s the world’s largest inactive, intact, and unfilled volcanic caldera. So the landscape is rather unique.

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Grey Crowned Crane

The Ngorogoro Crater is stark and beautiful, with the vast landscape dotted with wildlife. While I do not consider myself much of a birdwatcher, the birds in the area are stunning. During certain times of the year, flocks of flamingos are present in the saline lakes.

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Rocky roads leading into salt flats and canyons of the Ngorogoro

The Ngorogoro Crater Conservation area is large, and it was a long (and bumpy) three hour drive from the Serengeti Lodge. I found the area interesting enough that I wish I had more time there. On my next trip to Tanzania I hope to stay in the area longer to learn more about it and see more of the interesting and unique ecosystem.

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Zebra were plentiful on the grasslands of the Ngorogoro Crater

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Zebra feeding on the grasslands

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Hippos in a lake in the Ngorogoro Crater Conservation Area

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Much cleaner Hippos than in the muddy hippo pools of the Serengeti

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Kori Bustard, the largest flying bird native to Africa

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Ostrich in the Ngorogoro grasslands

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Wildebeest

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Wildebeest in the Ngorogoro Crater

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Ponds and trees in the Ngorgorgo Crater

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Superb starling

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Hyena walking 

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Giraffe in the Ngorgoro Crater Conservation Area, Tanzania

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Masked Weaver

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The Ngorogoro’s oddly beautiful landscape

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Giraffe in the bushes

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Obligatory “tourists taking a selfie” pic in the Ngorogoro Conservation area

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Stark landscape + Giraffes in the Ngorogoro Crater Conservation Area

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Photo Essay: A Visit to a Maasai Village in the Ngorogoro Crater, Tanzania

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Portrait of a young Maasai in Tanzania

Taking great pictures of safari animals during the Great Migration was my photographic goal for my recent trip to Tanzania. Yet some of my favorite images are from a cultural visit to the Maasai (also known as Masai) village of Ndemwa, located in the Ngorogoro Crater Conservation Area.

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Maasai greeting in the Ngorogoro Crater, Tanzania

The Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti offers a day trip to the Ngorogoro Crater, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s largest unflooded calderas. Several Maasai tribes call the Ngorogoro Crater home, with small villages dotting the harshly beautiful landscape.

Welcome Dance at the Ndemwa Masai Village in the Ngorogoro Crater

Traditionally, the Maasai are herders. They live off of the meat, blood, and milk of their livestock. They herd goats, cows and sheep. It’s a difficult life and becoming tougher in modern times. Many Maasai now leave traditional village life to take jobs as safari trackers or security guards. These skills come naturally to men who were raised guarding their herds from predators like lions.

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Awash in color, the Maasai are hard to miss 

Like Native People in so many other countries, there are geopolitical issues at play and some want the tribes relocated. For those who stay and continue on the traditional way, additional funds are needed to buy water and supplies for the village.

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Maasai jewelry hanging in a traditional dung hut

In addition to allowing tourists to visit their villages for a fee, the Maasai also sell beaded jewelry they make.

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The Entry to the Maasai Village

The traditional Maasai live in dung huts built by the women tribe members. The huts are rebuilt every two to three years.

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Portrait of a Maasai woman surrounded by jewelry

The Maasai also practice polygamy. Traditionally a man’s first wife is found by his parents from another village, since most of the villagers are related by blood.

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Male Maasai photographed inside a dung hut

After his first wife is chosen for him, a male Maasai is free to choose his own additional wives. Each wife lives in a separate dung hut with her children and the male splits his time between each. If he can support several wives, a Maasai man can start his own village. How does TLC not have a Sister Wives: Maasai spinoff yet?

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The colorful and chaotic Maasai greeting

Maasai are also resourceful. Their footwear is made from old motorcycle tires. The ultimate in upcycling style!

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Maasai footwear made from repurposed tires

I met several Maasai during my trip to Tanzania who did not stay in the village. Maasai work as camp and hotel guards, as well as safari trackers.

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Brightly dressed Maasai in the Ngorogoro Crater, Tanzania

Some visitors to Tanzania dislike the touristic angle of Maasai village visits. Common complaints are about shakedowns for cash or overcharging for jewelry. I did not have a problem it. I understand the business angle and it’s easy to see how the traditional village way of life would require more cash flow to survive in the modern world.

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Adumu: the Maasai jumping ritual

The Maasai have a jumping ritual known as adumu, which is fascinating to watch. Both the men and women can catch some serious air!

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Maasai school in the Ngorogoro Crater

I also enjoyed visiting the school to see the one room where the village children are taught before they are old enough to herd.

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Portrait of a Maasai woman and child

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Male Maasai jumping during the Adumu jumping ritual

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Young Maasai herding goats and cattle in the Ngorogoro Crater Conservation Area

I felt it was an honor to get a brief glimpse into traditional Maasai life and very much enjoyed my visit.

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Landscapes of St. Lucia: a #FriFotos Photo & Video Essay

A view of Gros Piton from Ladera Resort

I just returned from my first trip to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. St. Lucia is all lush rainforest and curvy mountains. If islands were supermodels, I’d say St. Lucia is the Kate Upton equivalent. In honor of #FriFotos, I thought I’d share a few landscapes from St. Lucia.

iPhone panorama shot from the deck of Ladera Resort

Diamond Falls, St. Lucia

The Piton Mountains are no doubt the island’s most notable geography– they are an UNESCO  World Heritage Site– but St. Lucia has many other charms. The island has beaches, rainforest, volcanos and waterfalls (especially the Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens) are all beautiful and worth visiting.

St Lucia’s Diamond Falls

Peak a book Piton view from the pool at Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort

If you’re into cloud porn, then St. Lucia is for you. Here’s a timelapse I shot from the deck of room 709 at Sugar Beach.

Cloud Time Lapse from Room 709 at Sugar Beach

Beautiful landscapes are one thing, but Lucians, as the locals call themselves, are lovely people. And it was nice to leave the hotels and go into Soufriere and dine with the locals while taking in another spectacular sunset.

Sunset at Soufriere Harbor, St. Lucia

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Apuglian Architecture: The Trulli Houses of Alberbello, Italy

Rooftops of trulli homes as seen in Alberbello, Italy

When planning my recent trip to Puglia, my friend Gabrielle helped with my itinerary. Her father’s side of the family is from Brindisi and she grew up spending summers in the area. She insisted I go see the trulli houses in the area.

Sign at the Ciesa a Trulli.

Trulli houses (also known as ciesa a trulli) are the traditional stone huts with conical roofs which were built primarily in the 18th century by farmers in the area to keep cool during the hot summer months. Think of them as the Mediterranean’s answer to adobe huts. Their peaked roofs make for a interesting “skyline.”

The trulli of Alberbello have been a UNESCO world heritage site since the mid-90s.

Geraniums provide pops of color in the middle of Alberbello’s commercial area

There are even trulli hotels in the area, and a few have been converted into shops and restaurants. I found it amusing that many trulli hotels come with disclaimers like “if you stay at a trulli hotel you won’t have a spacious room.”

Whitewashed symbols on the trulli rooftops

The streets and homes of Alberbello were well maintained, and the residents in the area were very house proud, inviting in tourists to check out the interiors. I passed because I assumed the invitation came with some sort of implied transaction, and I wanted to avoid that.

The house (2nd on the right) was modern construction yet totally trulli

All of Alberbello had sort of a quaint, Mediterranean shire type vibe. If it weren’t for the locals sweeping up, it might have felt a bit like a movie set.

Catholic shrines and Christian symbols are common motifs are common decorating details

Residents lived in this modern day trulli neighborhood, complete with produce vendors

A local rocking the Danny Aiello look from Madonna’s  Papa Don’t Preach video

Signage in Alberbello

Interior of a trulli house turned snack shop

Serie A Trulli Souvenir Banks

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