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TRAVEL DIARY // LISBON, PORTUAL // APRIL 2017

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I visited beautiful Lisbon over the Easter of 2017 with both of my parents. It has everything – culture, beautiful sites and shopping as well as some of the most stunning hilltop views. Even visiting in April, the weather was gorgeous – sunny but cool.

Lisbon is well known for its colourful buildings and some huge hills. However I did not expect it to be as diverse as it was. There are so many parts of Lisbon to explore, including the busy Bairro Alto district filled with bars and nightclubs, the beautiful plaza of Praça de Comércio, one of the biggest plaza squares in Europe lined with little cafes and shops, and even the old São Jorge castle, a Moorish castle built on a hilltop which overlooks the city.

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There are lots of ways to see the city. You can walk, drive, cycle (beware of the fluctuating hills!), go on a moped or catch a tram. The latter was my absolute favourite, and I stayed on the tram for a whole circuit, just taking in the sights, sounds and smells.

Some notable landmarks and sites in Lisbon which are well worth a visit include the Belém Tower (pictured below), also known as the Tower of St Vincent, which is a medieval fortified tower and UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its role in maritime discoveries during the Age of Discoveries era. There is a little café right next door to it which is floating on the Tagus River. Its a lovely place to sit out with a drink and a classic pastel de nata, Portuguese’s famous egg tart pastry.

Other places of significance include the Church of Santa Engrácia (pictured below), a 17th century monument, National Pantheon of Portugal and former church which was so awesome and huge that it did not completely fit in my camera’s shot, the Jerónimos Monastery (within walking distance from the Belém Tower), a world heritage late Gothic-Manueline-style monastery which is also an archaeology and maritime museum, and the Santa Justa lift, an iron elevator with beautiful views over the city.

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Another notable place to visit is Eduardo VII park which is Lisbon’s largest public park. If you head to the top of the park you get some stunning views across the park and over parts of the city. There are also some beautiful stone statues nearby as well as the Pavilhão Carlos Lopes museum (all pictured below).

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In addition to architecture, museums and sculptures, there are also other forms of art all around the city of Lisbon in the form of graffiti. I know that some people can be against graffiti, however I consider these particular pieces to be some inspiring works of art that really add to the diversity of the city. Feel free to judge for yourself and make up your own mind!

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Like all the other places, I would love to return. It will be interesting to see what has changed, and whether new graffiti art has been added. But for now, I am content with relaxing here in England whilst dreaming of the Portuguese delicacy of francesinha (a large ham, sausage and steak sandwich, coupled with a fried egg, melted cheese and a spicy tomato sauce). It is a heart attack waiting to happen, but so so amazingly delicious!

ARIA

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TRAVEL DIARY // SEVILLE, SPAIN // FEBRUARY 2017

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In February 2017, I visited Seville with my mum for a quick girly getaway. I definitely need to go back at some point – the city completely consumed me. Seville is the capital of the Andalusia region of southern Spain and is known as the birthplace of Flamenco dancing. Even in February, the weather was sunny and warm and it is such a “convenient” city to travel round in – the various modes of transportation it provides are so easy and simple to use, including buses, trains, trams and even horse and carriage rides!

We stayed in the gorgeous Hotel San Gil Sevilla and were greeted straight away by friendly and helpful staff. The hotel itself has an outdoor pool, restaurant and bar (I had a mackerel and pesto starter one afternoon and it was so good!).

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The hotel is a relatively short walking distance to one of the many shopping precincts, plus its a really scenic walk where you can take in the local architecture and walk past the various (great-smelling) restaurants. The precinct itself contains many well known stores and chain restaurants, but also a range of nik-nak stores with homemade gifts – I remember walking out of H&M and then walking straight into a little shop which sold different styles of Spanish folding fans for Flamenco dancing.

When it comes to things to see and do, there are a lot of places of interest around the city within walking distance.

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One of the first sites which is definitely worth seeing is Seville Cathedral (pictured above). It is a Roman Catholic cathedral consecrated in 1507 with beautiful Gothic architecture. A phenomenal size, it is the third largest church in the world and in 1987 it was registered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Two additional places of interest in Seville are the Plaza de España, a prominent plaza originally built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, and the Parque de María Luisa, in which the Plaza de España is set. The Plaza is full of beautiful architecture, contains many fountains and has various pop-up shops and stalls around it for people to buy trinkets and souvenirs. The Parque de María Luisa is Seville’s principal park which runs along the Guadalquivir River and it is breathtaking. Both places are on the “visit list” on the horse and carriage ride tours.

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We also managed to have a tour of the Maestranza (pictured below), a baroque bullring, and were able to visit the Basílica de la Macarena (pictured below), a church famous for housing “The Virgin of Hope” (a jewel encrusted statue). There are many places around Seville which serve delicious tapas and Spanish food. One of my absolute favourites was Iberian ham on toast or in a roll, its like a mildly spicy ham pâté and it is amazing.

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Other places which are well worth a visit include the Alcázar of Seville, a stunning Moorish royal palace with beautiful gardens and architecture, the Giralda (pictured below), a renaissance-style minaret with a Gothic bell tower, the Torre del Oro, a defensive tower with views over the city and Barrio Santa Cruz (pictured below), an area which contains the earlier mentioned cathedral and royal palace and also many shops and restaurants.

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Seville is an absolutely breathtaking city with beautiful architecture, delicious food and super friendly people. I’m definitely going back, but will revisit during the summer when there might be more things happening – five days was not enough time!

ARIA

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