We always like going to Berlin. It’s one of the cities that keeps inventing itself, be a world in its own. People usually have very different opinions of Berlin based on their experiences or which part of the city they live in. Like most metropole, it has its flaws and a few darker sides but once you’ve managed to look pass them, you’d keep coming back for more, like we do.
I lived here for 3 months when I first arrived in Germany and I had the best of time. When we first started dating, J kind of had half a job in the city so I accompanied him pretty often when he came here for business. At some stage it became such a rituals for us to come here before Christmas, we don’t really know why. However we never took much fotos just like you never do of your own home, because it’s so familiar that you don’t have the need to capture it in pictures.
Fortunately for us this time, our friend Nicolas (who’s a half Berliner himself) has introduced us to such a cool place, the Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg which is most famous for its street food Thursday event. Needless to say, we needed to check it out.
Although this post is called downtown Saigon, it actually starts with some pictures of trip to Gò Công, a village roughly 50km south of Saigon – however more than 2 hours to drive by car. Gò Công was the hometown of P’s grand parents and it’s where they are buried. Some relatives are still living there, in a vast farming area. Actually the whole Mekong delta is a vast farming area, almost every spot is used to grow rice or fruit.
What we heard about Lisbon didn’t disappoint: the city, the people (exept taxi-drivers), the night life, the markets, the food-scene. They were more than captivating. Too bad we didn’t spend enough time here at once (our schedule was 3 nights Sintra – 2 nights Lisbon – 5 nights Sao Miquel – 2 nights Lisbon) cause coming in and out for two nights each left us only 2 full days to explore the city. But we loved what we saw and would definitely come back for more.
Wanting to escape the busy city life, we headed to the National Park of Sintra-Cascais right after landing the first time in Portugal, saving its capital for later. After reading too many reviews about the cheating behavior of Portugese taxi-drivers (which is really a shame cause this country could really do better), we decided to book our pick-up in advance to save us all the troubles. After about 45 minute drive, we arrived in the little town of Colares where we rented a small cottage on the beautiful property of a Portugese family. Taking on their advise, we booked the sunset dinner at Bar do Fundo, nicely located on Praia Grande beach which is just a short walk away. Our timing couldn’t have been any better as it was late in the afternoon and the sun was casting its shade on the horizon. The descending walk to the beach we took happened to be the Dinosaur route with supposedly some Dinosaur footprints to be seen. Honestly, we didn’t see any cause we weren’t aware of of their existence, hence we weren’t looking. But we saw something else we liked maybe even better: our dream home. It was a spacious wooden villa on the cliff overlooking the Atlantics, totally secluded from the village life, something we had always imagined our home would look like…. (sigh)…. No, we didn’t take pictures of it, only in our minds.
Dinner was great. Our host even offered to pick us up from the beach to save us the hike back home so everything was exactly how it’s supposed to be: lovely place, beach, sunset, seafoods, good wines, and the two of us. We were very content till the next morning when I suddenly got reeaallly really sick in the stomach (it turned out to be some virus infection). I won’t bother you with all the ugly details, just saying it was a truly horrifying experience being in a secluded Portugese coastal town on a Friday afternoon (which also meant no chance to find any doctor at that hour) where people spoke very little English… Fortunately, our host has a Doctor friend whom they could call at the house and had him come to see me. So all is well that ends well, isn’t it. Only that it took me a couple of days to recover and it kind of ruined the first part of our trip, and my mood to say the least :-(.
Needless to say, with me in bed for 2 whole days we couldn’t spend much time outside. On our last day in the area, we decided to make the most of it and start our vacation all over again so we rented a bike and drive around. We were very glad we did.
Sintra is a very lovely coastal town about 30km away from Lisbon but since we’re not the tourist kind, the only attraction we chose to visit is Quinta da Regaleira with its magnificently designed and well-kept garden. It is truly a magical place that could have come directly from a fairly tale.