Travel #4: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Hello there everyone 🙂

As I told you on my last post here, we headed to Punta Cana on vacations with the hopes of a paradisiac place to rest. Our main goal was to do nothing at all so we were looking for some resorts with all-inclusive that could suit our needs.

  • How we chose where to stay

Since B. already knew the reputation of Bahia Principe Hotels and Resorts we started by checking the availability of their resorts. Since relaxation was what we most wanted, we were picky enough to see only Adults Only hotels and narrowed it down only to the Luxury Bahia Principe Resorts 18+.

Obviously, we started checking out some other hotels like Catalonia, Riu and Barceló but at the time Bahia Principe had the best quality/price ratio so we booked our vacations.

So we booked our vacations for Luxury Bahia Principe Ambar Don Pablo Collection (which is now called Luxury Bahia Principe Ambar Green) for the fair amount of 1223 euros for 2 people per 7 nights.

 We requested a room near the main pool and closer to Arena Gorda Beach and we also asked for a private shuttle from the hotel which cost us only 66 euros with return included.

  • How it was to get to the resort

As soon as we arrived to the airport, we had a resort’s shuttle waiting to take us to the resort. The driver was very nice and approachable and did gave us some more knowledge about the country. We had a calm 45 minutes journey from the airport to the resort and we arrived there almost at 10 pm.

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Our bedroom

This was my first time in a resort so when we got there I was so amazed with everything. The architecture, the decor, the stafff, everything was so perfect and nice. At the lobby while we were doing the check-in, we had a cocktail and the staff explained all we needed to know about the resort.

Unfortunately, there was a problem with the room we booked so we were moved to a different building far away from the beach but near a second pool. We were happy with this change since it was in a more quiet location and with new buildings and brand new rooms.

The rooms are really big with a king size bed so so comfortable! All rooms are equipped with a flat screen TV, mini-bar, living room with sofa bed, safe and a balcony, among other amenities.

Also included with your fee is the room service which is good and fast. Also, it has a full-equipped bathroom with a hydromassage bathtub, a separate shower, hairdryer and two washbasins.

  • What to do

First thing we did? Put on bathing suits and relax in the jacuzzi right accross our door since it was really hot outside and we needed to relax after the long flight. We asked for room service that night and believe me it tasted like perfection.

With our booking we also got access to 6 different restaurants to dinner during our stay and I highly recommend you to use and abuse it. Although they have a wide variety of different food at their buffet restaurant, it can become tiring to always have the same options every day. During our stay we booked Bella Italia, El Olivo, Maiko, Arrecife, Tex Mex and Los Corales, but we did skip Tex Mex because it was my birthday night and we went for something different. All their restaurants are different and all of them are really good but please don’t miss El Olivo and Maiko, these two are just awesome and were definitely our favourites. While El Olivo is a gourmet restaurant where you truly have a luxurious experience and where you are presented with new flavours, at Maiko you can get either a Tepanyaki dinner show or relax in à la carte regular table.

While we were on the resort we didn’t much more than eat, swim, sun bath and drink. There are tons of available excursions but we didn’t want to lose a day roaming around by bus or boat.

Anyway, when you book a reservation through Bahia Principe website you will be linked to Soltour travel agency and they always book a meeting with you on the first day to present you all the excursions you may do and how much it will cost you to do it. One thing for sure is that the resort is very organized!

The resort also offers you:

  • 1 hour per day free paddle surf, kayaks, tennis, catamarans for hire, snorkeling;
  • Diving lesson in the pool.

Awesome right?

The resort has two pools, each one in a different part of the resort. The pool nearer to the beach is usually where they provide animation and where different music plays.

Besides all of this, you can enjoy the amazing cocktails of your desire or you can try the cocktail of the day, since they always have one different everyday.

  • My birthday surprise
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Room decor for my birthday!

One thing you can definitely expect by staying at this resort is to meet with very nice and hardworking people. Since my birthday was in the middle of our vacations, B. organised an amazing surprise with the help of our butler James. When I arrived to our room, I had a ribbon accross the door and some balloons. Inside, there was a bath ready for me to take and rose petals spread accross the room and bed and also a cake with my name on and champagne for us to celebrate! This definitely did my day and I couldn’t thank them enough for it.

Check some more of the pics I took righ below!

XOXO,

S.

Travel #4: Punta Cana, Domincan Republic

Hello there 🙂

Today I bring you one my favourite trips so far. Although I like to travel to discover the world and to learn more about it, I believe that everyone should enjoy some lazy holidays from time to time.

After spending some holidays traveling within Europe on the previous years, we thought it was finally time to get some rest and where is better to rest than in the Caribbeans? I did lose some time searching exactly where to go, but after some talk with a cousin I was told that Punta Cana was perfect to go for laziness.

  • How did we got there?

Upon deciding Punta Cana was a go-go, we started looking at some flight prices and we tried to get a direct flight to Punta Cana. Well, but when you decide to plan a trip one month before going, it is not easy to get cheap and direct flights, so we went with AirEuropa.

Be prepared, if you go from Europe you can expect an 8 or 9 hour-long flight, which can be pretty boring/annoying so just pack books with you and feel your Smartphone/Tablet/Laptop with movies to see while flying. AirEuropa served us some meals, dinner included, and although it was not the best meal ever, it did suit our needs until we landed. Obviously, depending on where you are traveling from you have many more different airlines to travel with.

Punta Cana airport is amazingly simple. The airport is built in a traditional Dominican style with open-air terminals with their roofs covered in palm fronds, which means that when you are departing you can just stay seated watching the planes arrive and leave.

To get to the resort we opted to take a private shuttle from the resort, which was the fastest and most secure way to arrive to our destination. Usually all resorts give you the option of a shuttle to get there either a private or a shared one, just asked them and they won’t mind helping you with that.

About where I stayed, I’ll share it with you tomorrow, but meanwhile I’ll leave you a list here of which companies travel to Punta Cana Airport and from where the planes depart.

XOXO,

S.

Travel #3: Porto (Part 4)

Hello 😀

Well, I know some of you have been waiting for the Porto saga to finish. So, last but not least, let’s talk a bit about what to see in Porto and where do you really have to go. This has been a though post to write, since Porto is one heck of a beautiful city with tons of sightseeing. So, obviously besides this few options that I am going to provide you, there are tons of other ideas even better than these.

What to see when in Porto:

  1. Historic Centre of Porto 

This is the oldest area of the city and has been classified as World Heritage by UNESCO since 1996. This area is comprised of the civil parishes of Sé, Vitória, São Nicolau and Miragaia. By roaming around here, you will be faced with various incalculable monuments on Porto typical streets. In this area there some must sees that you cannot miss, such as:

    • Sé do Porto (the Catedral), which construction began in the 12th century by Bishop Hugo, is an imposing fortress with beautiful Gothic details and an amazing terrace with a wonderful view over the city.
    • São Bento Railway Station is Porto’s central train station. It is were there used to be the Benedictine nunnery in Porto and got its name from it. With an inspiration of Parisian architecture, if you peek inside you may see a wonderful arrangement of historical tiles that were hand-painted by Jorge Colaço.
    • Igreja de São Francisco was constructed around the 15th century and mixes Baroque and Gothic architecture. I believe this is one of the most beautiful churches I ever saw.
    • Igreja and Torre dos Clérigos, is one of the tallest buildings in town (and a hard climb to the top), and is also where you can have a 360º view over the city, so it is totally worth it.

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    • Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, it is on the other Douro margin and was built around the 16th/17th century. Also here you can have a panoramic view of Porto, and is where some of the best photos are taken.
    • Palácio da Bolsa is were Porto’s Chamber of Commerce is held. The only way to understand the value of this monument is by going inside. I was amazed with the Arab Room and all its details and richness. Usually this room is used for concerts, due to its acoustic.2016-02-15 15.29.43
    • Praça da Ribeira is one of the oldest squares in Porto and is facing the river. From here you can observe two bridges and, on the other margin, you can see Vila Nova de Gaia.

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     2. Port Wine Cellars

Porto Wine Cellars are definitely a must see and a must taste. Porto Wine is the brand image of the city. Although, you may not be a wine fan, you will be impressed with the history of this wine and how it is made. If you are a fan, don’t miss the opportunity to know more about its production and the free tastings so you can find the perfect one for you.

Personally, I visited Taylor’s which was founded in 1692 and is now open all year round for guided visits which end with a Port tasting. I would recommend you to ask for Marta as your guide, she really turns you into an enthusiastic! We got there and since the first words about it we were completely conquered and inside her story. At the end, we had the pleasure to taste 3 varieties of Porto Wine: White, Ruby and Tawny, and they even teach you how to taste it with.

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Besides Taylor’s, you may visit some more cellars like:

  • Sandeman, which was founded in 1790. The brand image is a man in a black cape and it also offers wine tasting at the end of the tour.
  • Ferreira, founded in 1751 and belonged to D. Antónia Adelaide Ferreira, a very determined woman. She had a dominant position in the production of wines from the Douro Vinhateiro, something really rare for those years.
  • Croft, one of the oldest companies, was founded in 1588. This company is well known for their ability to reinvent Porto Wine and were the firsts to produce a Porto Rosé.
  • Real Companhia Velha, was founded in 1756 by a Portuguese King D. José de Portugal and is considered to be one of the oldest producers and exporters of Port in Portugal.

3. Other spots you cannot miss:

  • Lello Bookshop, which was inspiration to some of Harry Potter’s books details and is one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world;
  • Porto University building;
  • Santa Catarina Street, with shops all the way down the street;
  • Casa da Música;
  • Jardins do Palácio de Cristal.

There is something you must do when you go to Porto, which is simply to walk around town by foot and discover places by yourself. I discovered one beautiful viewpoint near an old church by accident where I could have a different panoramic view of the city, which is this one.  Mostly enjoy the city and take some good company with you, I guarantee you will like this trip.

And with this I finish here my saga about Porto. If you have any question, you can reach me through my e-mail info@newestintown.com or within the comments section.

 

XOXO,

S.

A traveller’s dream #1: Greek Islands

Hello everyone 🙂

Let’s talk about something I guess all of us do at least once in our lives or maybe once/twice a year if you are like me: dreaming awake about the trip you would like to do next.

For those who really are into getting a great tan and also explore amazing views, I believe this is a destination that already went through your mind. The Greek Islands have everything: good vibes, sun, beach and beautiful views.

So Greece has more than 6,000 islands and islets scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Sea, which makes almost impossible to visit them all. At least, you should try to visit some of them and why not the most famous ones like Santorini, Mykonos, Corfu, Crete or Skyros?

I have been dreaming about spending a few days on one of these islands just facing the sun and relaxing, but also to explore a little. Did you know that some of the oldest civilizations like Cycladic have developed on these islands? This makes this destination also very rich in culture, archaeology and architecture.

So, on my search I found that the easiest way to get to any of the islands would be by taking a plane to Athenas and from there they have ferries everyday to the most important islands. I searched here what ferry I could take to Santorini, Mykonos or Naxos and the price range is from 90€ per person (with return included) to 150€ more or less, that is influenced by the duration of the trip and the type of seat you choose.

About where to stay there I only searched on Booking for 4 and 5 stars hotels or resorts and with pool included because I am crazy about swimming pools. Apart from that, I went to look on Airbnb where I found some good offers for a reasonable price. I really trust in Airbnb housing and usually I choose it when I want to have a whole house for me to be able to cook and save some money, but when I’m on a lazy mood I just go for a hotel where I don’t have to care about anything unless enjoying my vacations.

Now, the most important is coming… Photos! Enjoy some images I gathered to make you dream about your next vacations..

 

XOXO,

S.

 

Small thoughts #1

Did you know that according to a Plato dialogue in The Symposium, Aristophanes stated that humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and one head with two faces. As a punishment for humanity’s pride, Zeus decided to split all humans in half and condemned them to a life of looking for their other half. It is said that once you find your other half you will reach a state of happiness and peace.

XOXO,

S.

Travel #3: Porto (Part 3)

Hello there!

I am back today with the best part of the trip which is…. What to drink!

Regarding what to drink when in Porto there is an easy answer that is mandatory to follow, that is Port Wine. This type of wine began to be produced back on the 17th century and it is a fortified wine produced only in the Douro Valley. Despite being typically a red wine, you can also have white port wine which is also marvelous. It has a sweet taste and is excellent to try as a dessert drink.

Port Wine is produced from grapes collected from Douro Valley to which is added aguardente (other portuguese drink) to stop the fermentation process. The wine is stored in barrels inside wine cellars for as long as the producer wants to, but usually the older wine is better.

When in Porto I would definitely recommend you to visit some wine cellars (I will talk about it later) where you can learn more about the production and history of this wine and also try some Port Wine styles.

Although trying a single Port Wine is amazing, when I was in Porto I had to try something called “Porto Tónico” which is something like a gin only with tonic water but instead of gin they use Port Wine. It’s a refreshing and easy going drink where you can taste white Port Wine the best way.

I could tell you some bars you should go to but I won’t do so, instead I tell you to go to a place called Paris Gallery which is really close to Clérigos Tower and University of Porto. In here you will find some of Porto nightlife with excellent bares where you can start by trying a cocktail, taking a beer and end with a great wine bottle in front of you.

Obviously, besides trying Port Wine you should try some of the regular wines produced in the Douro Valley such as Quinta de La Rosa, Barca Velha and Porca de Murça. I guarantee you that you’re going to be amazed with the quality of Portuguese wines.

See you soon,

XOXO,

S.

Portugal, Salvador and Eurovision

Did you really think that I would only talk about Benfica? Oh no.. Saturday was the craziest day in Portugal.

We had the Pope in Fatima, Benfica as a champion and, while we were celebrating the championship, Salvador Sobral was announced has the winner of Eurovision 2017.

Congratulations Salvador! Thank you for what you’ve done!

Salvador and his sister Luísa took one of simplest songs to the festival and they won. Why? Because everyone was touched with the music even if they didn’t understand the words Salvador was singing, people felt the music in their hearts and realized its true meaning.

A naked music, a simple interpretation and a great singer was all that was needed to get the prize home, who would know? We have been participating in the contest for almost 50 years if I’m not mistaken and until now our best prize was a 6th place with Lúcia Moniz, another amazing singer.

Well, as FPF shared on twitter ‘ 10 months later, a new #11 conquers Europe!’.

Review his performance here and if you are like me the music will just be stuck in your head for hours.

XOXO,

S.

Travel #2: Porto (Part 2)

Hi guys!

I know it has been some time since I published Part 1, but I never thought it could be so hard to write about food and wine.

If you are like me you really value food and most of all, you value and appreciate the typical food of the places you go. If you go Porto, a city in the north of Portugal, don’t expect less than a full plate and great food (obviously, the full plate doesn’t happen in those gourmet restaurants that make me sad with the small amount of food geometrically centered in my plate). So, what are the dishes that you shouldn’t skip? Here is my list:

  • Francesinha 

Francesinha_especialAlthough I do not appreciate this specific dish, almost everyone I know is just crazy about it. It’s a sandwich mix of several types of meat like sausage, fresh sausage, ham, cold meats and beef steak. All of this is fully covered with cheese and then it’s guarnished with beer, tomato sauce and chili. It’s always served with fried chips and in some places with a fried egg.

  • Tripas à moda do Porto

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So this one a very tradicional portuguese recipe which some say that goes back to the Age of Discovery when Portugal started sailing the sea and discovering the world. Basically, the inhabitants of Porto were left only with the tripe of the animals to eat, so they invented this dish. It is a mix of meat, tripe, white beans, some vegetables and ‘enchidos’, like chorizo and morcela. For me everything that comes with enchidos aside is just awesome and if you never ever tried one portuguese morcela or chorizo you don’t know what you’re missing in life! Just by curiosity, due to this dish Porto people are usually called ‘Tripeiros’.

  • Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá

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Oh my oh my.. Codfish is the portuguese wonder! We have more than 100 different dishes made out of codfish and they are all so amaziing. In Portugal we usually use salted and dried codfish to our recipes and this one is no exception. The ingredients are, besides cod, onions, garlic, eggs, olives, olive oil and boiled potatoes. This goes to the oven and just comes out like one of the greatest dishes I ever tasted. Get a recipe here and try it by yourself.

  • Caldo Verde

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Caldo Verde is soup, but not any soup because… it has chorizo! Just kidding, it’s a really good soup with lots of tradition. The soup base is just composed by potatoes, onions, water and some seasonings. To this we add curly kale cuted in really lean stripes (caldo verde shape) and chorizo. A simple soup but obviously delicious.

Next post will be obviously about the Porto wine and Douro wine and what type of drinks you should try. Stay tuned!

XOXO,

S.

Travel #2: Porto (Part 1)

Hello there!

I usually go on a travel at least 2 times a year and usually it happens in September and in February. Last year, I decided to travel with my best friend to Porto for a 5 days getaway without boyfriend (for those who are pitting him, he went to Amsterdam with his friends, so his fine!).

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Porto in a cloudy day seen from D. Luís Bridge

Why Porto? It’s a beautiful city with so much nice people! It’s the kind of city where you can enjoy some historical monuments and buildings, but also where you can eat well and drink even better! Anyway, I’m going to give you five reasons that made me visit the city and you may like and agree with at least 3 of them:

  1. I live in Portugal so it just takes 40 minutes by plane and 2 hours by train to get there;
  2. Amazing food;
  3. Original and the greatest Port Wine (everywhere);
  4. City’s history;
  5. Cheap, like everything is cheap.

Here, you can also enjoy Douro River margins and visit some Port Wine Cellars or even the vineyards. You are just a leap away from some historical and beautiful places.

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Vineyards in the Douro Valley – classified as a World Heritage by UNESCO

With that said, now let’s start planning your trip to Porto? Awesome!

How do you get there?

  • Plane
    • Porto has an airport which is Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport. The airport is located near the city and you can get there to the city center and the other way around using public transportation. (check more info here);
  • Train
    • Porto is one of the biggest cities in the north of the country so it has Campanhã Train Station where you can get trains that establish international railway connections;
  • Bus
  • Car
    • If you enjoy road trips, you can get to the city by car. If so just enjoy all the motorways that were built around Porto and the excellent road connections.

Where to stay?

Where to stay in Porto it’s easy to answer. Nowadays you have so many options that you just have to choose based on your budget. I will just share with you some options:

  • Hotel
    • In Porto you have great hotels, some cheaper and some expensive but you can always count with a very professional service. You can either choose for a Bed & Breakfast, a Hostel or even a 5-stars hotel. On this matter I advise to search on TripAdvisor and this Telegraph article what are the best options for your pocket
  • House rental
    • Usually when I go on vacations I just go for a house rental. I always do some math and I find it cheaper to prepare home meals and have a full house to myself than just rent a hotel room and to pay for meals everyday on restaurants. I always use AirBnb website to search for the house that suits me best and the one I believe to have a fair price.

After this, I promise to return briefly to let you know where to go, where to eat and what to drink! Don’t miss the second part…

XOXO,

S.