Bar Buza, Dubrovnik: COLD DRINKS WITH THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VIEWS!

It’s not everyday that the book you’re reading mentions that bar/coffeehouse/pub where you’re reading it at. The words screamed off the page: COLD DRINKS WITH THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VIEWS! My bottle of Ožujsko wasn’t that cold, but glancing out over the pristine Adriatic coastline and the plush electric green island of Lokrum and could coincide with at least one of those statements.

The word buza in local tongue quite literally means hole, and the place was advertised in our hostel as literally being a hole in the wall – a hole in the famous city walls, that is. The city center is extremely small – you can see everything in a day or so – so we figured a leisurely walk around the city center with cameras in tow would eventually lead us to one of the only bars that’s open in the off-season. Traipsing around the beautifullly restored fortifications, we quite literally ran into a wall – we could see the bar, but we couldn’t actually access it.

Wanting to check out the COLD DRINKS after walking around all afternoon and enjoy them with THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VIEWS, we wound our way up the streep staircases on the western side of the city. The bar was sparse, just some chipping and rusted handrails and some plastic chairs with rickety tables. Our beer came with plastic cups and cost a whopping 35 kuna, or about 5€, each.

The day was clear but beautiful for a late March day, so we pulled out our e-books and sipped our Ožujsko as slowly as possible. When the words of Beer in the Balkans, a tongue-in-cheek quest for cheap beer throughout the Ex-Yu, jumped out at me, I signaled the waitress for another round. Who can say no to a Croatian sunset and a warm beer?

Have you ever been to Buza Bar? Do you think it’s got the MOST BEAUTIFUL VIEWS IN THE WORLD? For more information and seasonal opening hours, check out the bar’s website

Seville Snapshots: Calle Pureza, the heart of Triana

Soy Ana, de la Calle Pureza

Kelly never fails to let people believe she’s trianera, a resident of the Triana neighborhood of Seville. When I called this barrio home for three years, we’d often wax poetic about just how special it felt, that it was more a feeling than monuments or a glossy exterior. Triana is the old fisherman’s barrio, where squat houses crumble next to soaring church spires, where a tapa is bigger and cheaper than in the center. I had all of my people here – the man around the corner who made my coffee, the woman at the laundromat who would re-wash a garment – for free – if she wasn’t satisfied.

Even the natives – those who have grown up and attended school in the neighborhood – swell with pride when describing a neighborhood where gypsies sing flamenco on the streets every now and again and azulejo tiles line the hole-in-the-wall bars.

While walking down Calle Pureza, a street that snakes through the heart of Triana, I heard a hoarse “cuidaaaaaao” as I was fumbling with Camarón’s settings. I was on the way to shoot the wedding of a guiri friend and her sevillano boyfriend, nervously changing between auto and manual. An abuelo weidling a shopping cart wizzed by me, dodging oncoming traffic as he carried nearly a dozen long septres towards the pristine basilica. I raised Camarón to my face and shot.

 Olé mi Triana.

I had a great time shooting Andrea and Carlos’s wedding in early June, and I’m as happy as they are with the results. If you’re looking for someone to shoot an event, engagement pictures, etc. in Seville, get in touch! Alternately, I’m looking for guest bloggers for the upcoming months. Send your stories and photos to sunshineandsiestas [at] gmail [dot] com.

From Wine Tasting to Extraordinary Architecture: Discovering the Douro Valley

Author’s Note: Seville wasn’t always the object of my Spanish affection: I spent six weeks living with a host family in Valladolid, perfecting my castellano accent and drinking copious amounts of Ribera del Duero wine, still one of my picks. The fertile Duoro valley, which begins in Northern Castilla y León, flows into Portugal, who has also gained international fame for its port wines from the region. I had the opportunity to visit its capital, Porto, and became a big fan! I’m aching to go back and explore more: Home to some of Europe’s most remarkable natural landscapes, the Douro Valley is undoubtedly one of Portugal’s finest regions. An international hotspot for fine wine production, this charming valley is the ideal destination for a summer holiday. 

As one of Portugal’s most sparsely populated areas, the Douro Valley is an excellent destination for visitors looking to escape the stress of urban life. Relax and unwind as you travel down the Douro River, taste great Portuguese wine, and enjoy yourself in this area of natural beauty. 

Wine Tasting

The Douro Valley is one of Portugal’s most well-known wine growing regions, with the unofficial title of ‘world’s most beautiful wine region.’ Famous for its delicious port wines, the Douro is one of Southern Europe’s wine growing hotspots. Relax beside the Douro River and sample one of the region’s famous ports, including 40-year-old tawny variations. Lovers of red wine will enjoy spending their holiday in the Douro’s vineyards and riverside wineries.

Authentic Portuguese Dining

The Douro Valley region is home to some of Portugal’s finest food, as well. Spend your first day in the region exploring Porto– the region’s largest city. Known as the country’s capital of fine dining, Porto is an excellent place to taste authentic Portuguese food.

Known for its seafood, Porto is the perfect place to taste bacalhau – a dish made using salted codfish. Other options include the popular beach BBQs in Matosinhos, where you can sample grilled fish, chicken, and shrimp.

Excellent Architecture

The entire Douro Valley region, and Porto in particular, is home to some of the best architecture and urban design in Portugal. Relax near the Douro in the central districts of Porto – also a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and spend an afternoon exploring the thin, winding city streets. Streets near the city center, like Rúa Miguel Bombarda and the streets winding around the Seu and the university are especially charming.

As one of Europe’s largest mercantile cities in past eras, Porto is home to a style of tall, thin townhouses that are hard to find elsewhere in the country. The riverside area of the city, known as Ribeira, is a great place for architecture nuts to explore.

River Cruises

The Douro Valley is also renowned for having some of the most incredible scenery in all of Southern Europe. With vineyards lining the mountains that surround the river, a trip down the Douro is an incredibly stimulating visual experience.

Whether you opt for a short one-day cruise or a five-day river trip, spending your holiday on the Douro River is an excellent way to enjoy some of Southern Europe’s most dramatic scenery.

Historical Sites

Northern Portugal, the Douro Valley region in particular, is home to one of Europe’s oldest civilizations. Porto, the region’s largest city, was a Roman outpost during the height of the Roman Empire’s dominance of Southern Europe. Because of its historical significance, the region is filled with stunning churches and palaces. The Porto Cathedral is a beautiful Romanesque structure at the heart of the city, while the Palácio da Bolsa is a gorgeous 19thcentury palace that was formerly the city’s stock exchange.

From fine wine to delicious food, incredible houses to beautiful historical churches and Roman buildings, Portugal’s Douro Valley is an immensely rewarding place for visitors looking to relax in beautiful surroundings and discover Portugal’s history.

This travel guide was written by Shearings Holidays, one of Europe’s leading coach holiday companies. Visit their website to learn more about river cruises in Northern Portugal and Spain. If it weren’t true, I wouldn’t publish it cuz I like keeping it real.

Seville’s Best Terrace Bars for Summer

When the days in Seville heat up (which should have happened, um, six weeks ago), the streets empty out. Buildings are hugged for shade, gazpacho and cold beer are chugged by the gallon. Sevilla literally becomes a ghost town in the summer months, and those of us unfortunate enough to be here have only one option (unless you count day-long showers while eating popsicles as a feasible option, which I totally and shamelessly do):

Terrace bars, called terrazas.

Seville's BestSeville is nestled in the Guadalquivir River valley, one of the flattest parts in all of Spain. This means that all of the hot air sits in right on top of the city, creating an effect called er borchorno. During the evening, the Guadalquivir is just about the only place where we can get some relief, so many of the discos take their booze bottles down to the banks and take advantage of the breeze. I have tons of great memories of nights where I’d roll out of bed at 8pm when the night was finally cooling down, grab some drinks with friends and head to the discos.

Here’s a few of my top picks:

ROOF: This concept bar opened in Spring 2012, staking claim on a multi-storied roof in the Macarena neighborhood. An acquaintance was in charge of the set-up and social media, so I took advantage and dragged La Cait along with me.

The design is part-sevillano-bar, part-Moroccan-bungalow, and ROOF serves up imaginative cocktails along with decent snacks. Just be aware of the long lines for a drink on weekends, and bring your camera – the views are incredible, particularly at night. (ROOF is located on the top floor of the Hotel Casa Romana at Calle Trajano, 5. Cocktails will run you 6-8€. Open daily from midday.)

Terraza at Hotel EME – The hip hang at a terrace bar that’s right next to the Giralda, making it a perfect place to watch the sun go down while having a gin tonic. Electronic music pulsates at pretty much any hour of the day, and cocktails are wildly expensive, but treating yourself to an overpriced mojito when your best friend visits it acceptable, right? (Calle Alemanes, 27, on the 4th floor of the Hotele EME Cathedral).

Hotel Inglaterra – I was introduced to this bar when Gary Arndt, the blogger behind the successful Everything, Everywhere, had tapas with Sandra of Seville Traveler and me. The terrace doesn’t have a ton of character, with fake grass and plastic chairs, but it does have some of the best views of the center of town and a bird’s-eye view of Plaza Nueva – plus, it’s not too crowded or expensive. (Plaza Nueva, 7. Open from 5:30pm daily).

Capote – having a beer at Caopte takes me back to my days as an auxiliar de conversación, long before adult responsibilities like a full-time job and master’s. Nestled just below the Triana bridge, the open-air bar has great parties and promotions, and it’s often a good place from which to start the night. Famous for their mojitos, the bar’s always full of an eclectic mix of people, and they offer cachimbas and ample seating. (Next to the Triana Bridge, open from 1om until 4am from Semana Santa until mid September)

Embarcadero – I wasn’t clued into Embarcadero until a few summers ago. Crammed between two riverside restaurants, a steep staircase leads right down to the water, and the bar has a nautical feel. Embarcadero actually means pier, so lone sailboats rock gently with the current of the Guadalquivir, and heavy ropes are all that separate the water from the wooden planks of the floor. Live music, good service and unobstructed views of the Torre del Oro make this bar one of my favorites. (Calle Betis, 69. Open daily from 5pm until around 2am)

Alfonso – When the summer months get too hot to bear, two discos open at the foot of Plaza de América in María Luisa Park. With the dramatic backdrop of the lush green space and its museums, Alfonso’s breezy terrace rocks into the wee hours of the morning. This is a place to see and be seen without feeling so stuffy. (Located at the south end of Plaza de América in María Luisa park, just off Avenida de la Palmera. Typically open mid-June to mid-September from 10pm).

There’s a whole loads of other – Puerto de Cuba, Chile, Ritual, Bilindo, Casino – but I’m too low key to ever go to them (or get into them!).

The Gourmet Experience at El Corte Inglés: Even if it’s not summertime, the terrace on the top floor of the Corte Inglés in Duque operates yearround, provng that sevillanos will brave any sort of weather to be able to smoke and drink outside. 

terraza Corte Ingles Gourmet

Apart from food offerings, cocktails and beer are served every day of the week on the spacious terrace, which boasts views of the old town. (Situated on the sixth floor of the flagship Corte Inglés in Plaza del Duque, right in the heart of town. Open daily from noon; hours fluctuate for weekends and holidays.)

Have any favorite terrace bars in your city? Please have a sip in my honor – I’m busy planning my wedding!

Shooting My First Wedding: Andrea y Carlos

I’m a sucker for a good love story. Maybe it’s the midday hours watching Spain’s answer to Lifetime: Television for Women, but having been in a relationship for the last 5.5 years, I find myself seeing myself settle down, and for real this time.

I especially love the stories when people have overcome language barriers, visa issues, and the naysayers. When a fellow blogger married her gatidano boyfriend a few years ago, I loved his English vows, claiming that a bilingual relationship is twice as enriching, twice as fun. I wholeheartedly agree. How great is making Thanksgiving for your extended family or teaching one another idioms and swear words?

I’m just one of many who have fallen in love abroad and who fumbled in Spanish for love, so when my friend Andrea called me and asked if I’d be interested in photographing her wedding to her sevillano, Carlos, I jumped at the opportunity. Being another guiri-sevillano couple it was a pleasure to help them capture their special day that was full of laughs and a ton of love. Like the Novio’s family, Carlos’s relatives have really embraced Andi and their bilingual love.

The couple put together their day in just a few shorts weeks, and Andi was quick to recommend a great place to find wedding supplies at wholesale prices. I spent hours researching shots, looking for interesting places around Triana and Plaza de España to take pictures of the pair, and testing lighting in the venue. When I turned in the pen drive with 5.8GB of photos, video and touched up shots, Andrea and Carlos told me that they would be delighted if I shared them. Shooting a couple that was in love and looking forward to their new life in Maine was such a pleasure, and I was flattered that they asked me and Camarón to join in.

I had loads of fun shooting Andrea and Carlos’s wedding, from Andi’s hair appointment into the wee hours of the morning. If you’re looking for someone to shoot special events, get in contact with me at sunshineandsiestas[at]gmail.com

Preguntas Ardientes: Airport Parking

I Facebooked the world about the news: I had finally bought tickets to attend Oktoberfest and visit my cousins in Germany! My cousin and one of my childhood best friends, Christyn, a traveler and adventurer in her own right, was excited to hear the news, but it turns out buying the airline tickets was the easiest part.

“Well, you practically travel for a living,” she said, “Why don’t you figure out the logistics? How to get there from Bann, where to stay, tent tickets…”

As it turns out, my logistical planning starts from the moment I get out of work on Thursday in late September, as I’ll have to drive to the Málaga airport and stay overnight before catching a flight early the next morning. What’s going to happen to my Pequeño Monty, my beloved new car? I remembered my dad, a travel hacker extraordinaire, always seeking out the best options for when it came time for our yearly trips out west to ski. Al ataque!

Airport Parking Options

When you’re heading off on holiday and you need to book airport car parking, whether it’s Stansted, Glasgow or perhaps Leeds Bradford Airport parking, there are a number of different parking options to consider. These can be loosely grouped into two main locations – on-and off-site parking.

On-Site Parking

You might think that on-site parking would be the most convenient option, as you’re closer to the terminal. This may be true if you book a car park that’s within walking distance of the terminal. But sometimes when you park in a remote long stay car park that requires a transfer service to reach the airport, it can often take a comparable amount of time to park off-site – and it might be cheaper too (see below for more information about off-site parking).

On-site parking can include transfers to help passengers get from one part of the airport grounds to the terminal, and when you have booked and paid for car parking, the shuttle cost is usually included. Other forms of on-site parking include Meet and Greet or Valet parking. This involves dropping your car off and having it parked for you while you walk to the terminal to catch your flight, and on your return, your car will be waiting just a short distance from the airport. It’s expensive, but it’s also convenient and quick.

Off-Site Parking

Similar to remote long stay car parks, off-site parking involves parking at a distance from the airport and using an inclusive shuttle service to transport you to and from the terminal. The main difference is that most off-site car park operators will park your car for you while you catch the shuttle, and it’s often one of the most affordable options too. So if cost is more important and you’re happy to take a short shuttle to the airport, this is usually the best option.

If you’re a traveler, what do you typically do for airport parking? Any great tips to add? PS This post was written by a third party, and I was compensated for it. No te preocupes – I fact checked!

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