Cafe

Nantes | France

A CITY IN CULTURAL CHANGE

→ Creative, innovative, versatile, dynamic, young, modern…this wonderful city along the Loire-Delta – only 60km from the Atlantic Ocean – surprises in many ways. Actually, the future of Nantes did not look good at all with the fall of the shipyard industry in the 80’s and the consequent regional economic crisis and high unemployment rate. But Nantes managed the cultural change and these days many students, creative people and artists from all over the world call Nantes their home. We actually learn from a local, that Nantes and Bordeaux are the two current cities where young French people want to be.

In the early evening, we arrive at our Hotel “Oceana” in the middle of the city center at “Place Graslin”, where public cars are restricted. We don’t waste time and go straight to discover the city and walk through the lively streets with small restaurants, cafes, boutiques and bars. Very close to the hotel is the shopping mall “Pommeraye-Passage”, an architectural masterpiece from the 19th century, with beautifully decorated galleries over three floors – it counts as one of the nicest shopping malls in Europe, which we can now certainly confirm. Later in the evening we decide to have dinner right around the corner of the hotel at the restaurant “My Resto”; and we can only recommend this place for good fusion food.

Open air art

We start the next day with a typical French breakfast – Croissants, Pain au Chocolate and Coffee – at the traditional brasserie and restaurant “La Cigale”. This elegant art-nouverau-style brasserie from 1895, with beautiful wooden and ceramic art covering the walls and ceilings, is a landmark of the city and a place that everyone should visit. We start to explore Nantes with a visit to the city district “Bouffay” and the imposing city castle “Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne” from the 15th and 18th century. The historic museum gives a good impression of the beginnings of the city all the way until today’s metropolitan city and its uncomfortable past around slavery, the driver of the economic wealth in the 18th century.

The lovely park “Jardin des Plantes” is very close to the castle and is one of the 4 biggest botanic gardens in France. With 10.000 exotic and domestic plants and many little surprises like giggling mushrooms in a bed of flowers or an oversized park bench, make this city park a small gem and a must see for all visitors.

Art installation "Nymphe", Nantes France

Art installation “Nymphe”, Nantes France

A short visit to the former cookie factory LU “Le Lieu Unique”, which today offers plenty of space for the creative, art exhibitions and shows, a book store, bar and restaurant and even an oriental Hammam. My personal highlight: after nightfall, projectors show the image of young woman – “Nymphe” or “Sirene” – on the surface of the water in the adjacent canals…purely ingenious, fascinating and somehow magical.

“Le Grand Éléphant” – The trademark of Nantes

Most of the following day we spend in the city district “Ile de Nantes”, the old harbor and industrial area of Nantes that has developed into a dynamic, cultural and creative center of the city. A number of bars, cafes and exhibition areas have established along the quayside. A large recreational area was created for the young and the old to spend their day and the large old cranes remind of the shipbuilding days. We explore the rather large area with bicycles, which can be rented at automated stations at many places around the whole city. A real highlight is the encounter of a huge mechanical elephant that slowly walks around the area, escorted by an excited audience on its side. Many other mechanical wooden and metal sculptures, that were created with the inspiration of the novels by Jules Verne, can be seen at the museum “Machines de L’Ile” and at the fascinating carousel “Carrousel des Mondes Marins” is certainly worth a visit. People can actually ride or fly on some of the machines including the elephant. I have the pleasure of riding on a giant ant and Jan joins the fun on a huge spider.

After two amazing days in such an inspiring and exciting city, we must continue our journey. But we will return, as we have not nearly had enough of this great place.

→ Check out our next stop: Corsica & Sardinia

Porto & Douro Tal | Portugal

MYSTERIÖSE STADT MIT WELTOFFENEN BEWOHNERN

→ Unser nächster Stopp führt uns nach Porto! Wir haben großes Glück – das Wetter meint es gut mit uns und die Sonne lacht. Das ist in Porto leider nicht immer so. Oft versinkt diese alte Handelsstadt am Rio Douro im dichten Nebel und verleiht ihr einen ganz eigenen märchenhaft-mysteriösen Charme.

Wir checken ein im DesignPalacioFlats – ein erst kürzlich eröffnetes und ziemlich cooles Hotel mit gemütlichen Apartments in einem beeindruckendem Gebäude aus dem 13. Jahrhundert. Nach einer kurzen Verschnaufpause gehen wir unmittelbar auf Erkundungstour, schlendern durch die engen, gewundenen Gassen der Altstadt und bestaunen die dicht aneinander stehenden, uralten schiefen Häuser. Später am Abend treffen wir unsere Freunde Francisco und Nita zum Abendessen im Restaurant 5 Oceanos in der Hafengegend Matosinhos und genießen die wunderbare portugiesische Küche mit frischem Fisch und gutem Wein aus dem Douro Tal.

Auf Entdeckungstour durch Porto

Für den nächsten Tag steht Sightseeing auf dem Programm. Dank der großartigen Tipps unserer Freunde sind wir bestens gewappnet für Porto: wir besteigen den Kirchturm „Torre dos Clerigos“, von dem man eine fantastische Aussicht über ganz Porto hat, überqueren die von Gustav Eiffel entworfene Brücke „Ponte Luis I“, besichtigen die im 12. Jahrhundert erbaute Kathedrale „Sé do Porto“ und bestaunen die zauberhafte Buchhandlung „Livraria Lello & Irmao“, welche zu den schönsten Buchläden Europas und der Welt gehört. Einen kleinen Mittagsnack nehmen wir im „Mercearia Das Flores“, ein kleines portugiesisches Bistro mit leckeren lokalen Bio-Produkten. Für einen Nachmittagskaffee gehen wir in das sehr beeindruckende Kaffeehaus „Cafe Majestic“, welches bereits seit 1921 seine Gäste empfängt. Mit einer Führung und anschließender Portwein-Verköstigung gemeinsam mit unseren portugiesischen Freunden im Sandeman Weinkeller, lassen wir diesen ereignisreichen Tag voller neuer Eindrücke entspannt mit leckerem Portwein ausklingen.

Tag drei unseres Porto-Aufenthaltes lassen wir etwas relaxter angehen. Wir fahren zum örtlichen Stadtstrand und checken die Wellen. Leider nicht gut genug zum Surfen und so bleibt uns Zeit für einen ausgiebigen Strandspaziergang mit anschließendem Mittagessen im gemütlichen Beach Restaurant „Praia da Luz“. Wir genießen das leckere Essen und den unglaublich tollem Blick auf das Meer. Am Nachmittag wird’s wieder richtig spannend, denn ein weiteres EM-Fußballspiel steht an und wir fiebern mit beim letzten Gruppenspiel Portugal – Ungarn beim Public Viewing auf dem „Base Porto“ mitten in der Stadt. Nach einem nervenaufreibenden 3:3 Unentschieden feiern wir das Weiterkommen Portugals bei der Europameisterschaft 2016 und unseren letzten Abend mit unseren Freunden Francisco und Nita im hervorragenden Fischrestaurant „Ode Porto Winehouse“ in der Altstadt.

 São João Fest, Porto

Am nächsten Tag wappnet sich die Stadt bereits für São João, das alljährlich stattfindende Johannesfest von Porto. Wie auch in Lissabon werden an jeder Ecke kleine Stände aufgebaut, an denen Sardinen und Fleisch gegrillt und verkauft wird. In Porto ist es allerdings Tradition, Freunde und Nachbarn mit einer Lauchstange am Kopf zu berühren, was dem Anderem Glück bringen soll. Aus der Lauchstange wurde irgendwann ein Plastikhammer mit Hupe und aus der Tradition ein Riesenspaß. Wir machen natürlich mit und hämmern uns gegenseitig was das Zeug hält Glück zu. In weiser Voraussicht und in guter Erinnerung an unser vergangenes San Antonio-Fest in Lissabon (s. a. unsere Beitrag zu Lissabon) verlassen wir diese wunderbare Stadt Porto am frühen Nachmittag und brechen auf ins Douro-Tal, Richtung Pinhao.

Das Douro-Tal – Heimat des portugiesischen Portweins

Da die Fahrt erst ab Peso da Regua richtig schön wird, wurde uns empfohlen, auf der Autobahn A 4 Richtung Vila Real die Abfahrt Cavalho de Rei zu nehmen und dann weiter auf der Landstraße entlang des Rio Douro, Richtung Pinhao zu fahren. Der Blick lohnt alle mal: satt-grüne Weinberge, unzählige Weingüter und stattliche Quintas liegen entlang unseres Weges und jede weitere Kurve die wir nehmen, bietet einen neuen atemberaubenden Blick auf das Douro-Tal.

Leider ist das uns empfohlene Hotel „Quinta do Vallado“ bereits ausgebucht und wir entscheiden uns spontan bei der „Quinta do Pego“ nach einem freien Zimmer zu fragen. Wir haben tatsächlich Glück! Die Quinta liegt ruhig und malerisch hoch oben auf einem Weinberg, umringt von grünen Weinstöcken und bietet einen atemberaubenden Blick auf das Douro-Tal. Der Empfang mit hauseigenen Portwein ist äußerst herzlich und das Abendessen ziemlich lecker. Wir fühlen uns wie Zuhause und genießen zwei ruhige und beschauliche Tage in diesem kleinen Paradies, bevor wir weiter in Richtung Spanien aufbrechen.

→ CHECK OUT OUR NEXT STOP:  Biarritz | France

→ Check out our next stop: Biarritz

Lisbon | Portugal

MELANCHOLY AND PURE ZEST FOR LIFE

→ Finally we reach Lisbon – our favorite city in Europe! We’ve been here many times before, in this wonderful city right on the river Tejo. Every time we visit, we discover new and exciting things – the city has just so much to offer. What we don’t know on the day of arrival, it is Santo-António-Festival. At this annual event, the whole city celebrates the holy António, the patron of the city Lisbon. The streets are covered in colorful garlands, sardines (a national dish) are grilled and sold at nearly every corner and there is party music everywhere you go. Our hotel is in the middle of the traditional old-town Alfama, in the center of Lisbon. When we arrive at the hotel “Santiago de Alfama Boutique Hotel”, the whole city is a big party and there is not even the slightest chance to think of getting any sleep when everyone is celebrating in front of the hotel’s doorstep. Even being totally exhausted from a wedding that we’ve been to the night before, we decide to join the party and walk through the small streets of Alfama – we have the best time dancing, eating Sardines like the locals and just purely celebrating until the morning hours.

What a party, what a night!

The next day, not only we feel it, but the whole city seems to be hung-over. The streets are quiet and the people of Lisbon take it very easy on this lazy day, and so do we. We walk to the “Café a Brasileira”, a wonderful café from the turn of the 19th century in belle époque style and where intellectuals and artists of Lisbon used to meet. A double espresso and a couple of “Pasteis de Natas” (very delicious puff-pastry filled with vanilla and cinnamon pudding that should actually be forbidden for specific reason), we get enough energy to start the rest of the day. We continue walking to the district “Principe Real” that lies on a hilltop with many small boutiques, cafes and restaurants. We have lunch at “A Cevicheria” and enjoy different unique creations of ceviche at a stylish but relaxed atmosphere. For dessert we got some frozen yoghurt at “Frozz” right next door and walk across to the small park “Jardim do Principe Real” to enjoy our dessert on a bench underneath our favorite tree, a large really old cedar.

Gin Lovers Lisbon

Gin Lovers Lisbon

A few steps down the road, we then go to “Embaixada Concept Store”, an impressive antique villa (more like a small palace) with a number of small boutiques with unique and Portuguese products. We meet Fabio, a cool bartender of “Gin Lovers”, a bar and provider of well-selected global gins – this place is already well-known in Portugal, as we find out later in the city Porto. We have a nice conversation with Fabio and speak about Gin, his hometown Lisbon and his favorite hobby, cliff-diving (!). He then invites us to watch the next Portugal game of the European Championship the next evening together with his friends and family.

After a long last night and an extensive tour through Lisbon, we feel exhausted. Our feet are tired, so we take the famous tram number 28, which runs through the most prominent districts of Lisbon, back to our hotel. The white and yellow trams of the city go back decades and represent a landmark of Lisbon, they are still used as daily means of transport by the Lisbon people. In the evening, we take a sundowner and some Portuguese Tapas on the roof terrace of the Hotel “Memmo Alfama” with a stunning view over parts of Lisbon and the Tejo river.

6 weeks “on the road” take effect

Jan needs a haircut! “Facto Hair” is a really stylish hair saloon in the district Bairro Alto and the stylist André gives Jan a cut that fits to his already imposing moustache. We get some tips to take a short ferry-ride across the river Tejo to have some authentic fish-dishes in the city quarter “Cacilhas”.

In the early evening, we go after Fabio’s invitation and watch the Portugal vs. Island game in the small streets of Alfama with his friends and family. The game ends 1:1 and on the way home, we take a final drink at the bar “Ao Pé da Sé” in Alfama – on the men’s toilette, you will feel like Superman (see photo). As with many people in Lisbon, we have a nice conversation with the bartender Duarte – also a surfer, so we arrange to meet for surfing around his hometown Cascais, our next destination.

After exploring Lisbon the next day, we have a drink on the roof terrace of the “Bairro Alto Hotel” – a chilled Gin & Tonic and a view over the roofs of the city while the sun sets in the distance, is just the perfect way to end the day and our stay in Lisbon.

Here some additional tips for restaurants in Lisbon:

  • Manteigaria – Fabrica de Pastéis de Nata: the famous Pastéis de Nata are just the best and are served still warm (!) if you enjoy them in the shop
  • Cervejaria O Zapata: a small authentic restaurant with great Portuguese cuisine, served with fluorescent lights, TV and Portuguese tiles on the wall
  • Jardim da Cerejas: Indian restaurant with tasty vegan dishes – all you can eat lunch menu for unbeatable EUR 7,50 per person
  • Cervejaria Ramiro: great for all seafood lovers – this place serves seafood in the finest quality. You should consider reserving a table if you don’t want to wait in long lines for lunch or dinner
  • Espumantaria: a small selection with fresh Mediterranean dishes. And a small bar at the entrance to have an aperitif or drinks after dinner
  • Time Out Mercado da Ribeira: Old market hall with a large variety of food in all directions and some restaurants to have lunch or dinner
  • Ao Pé da Sé: A small cozy restaurant and bar in Alfama that serves great cocktails – you will find Superman in the men’s toilette

→ Check out our next stop: Cascais

→ Check out our next stop: Cascais

West Algarve | Portugal

SAGRES: SUN, BEACH & SURF

→ We reach Sagres in the South of Portugal. With more than 30 fantastic and scenic beaches in close proximity – almost each one is ideal for surfing – making Sagres a real surfers paradise in Europe. Yet the atmosphere is friendly and quiet. Apart from a number of surf shops, bars, cafés and restaurants, there is not much else than sun, beaches and great waves. It’s all about kicking back and relaxing!

Our daily morning-routine is: Espresso and Pastel de Nata at the café of the “Mareta Beach Boutique Hotel” and wave scouting at Sagres’ best surf spots: Mareta, Tonel and Beliche. Even though Sagres is a small, quiet secluded fishermen’s village on the far southwest part of Europe, you can get great food – especially fresh fish that comes straight from the fisher boats in the harbor of Sagres. Our favorite place for fish is the “Restaurante Zavial” directly on the beautiful beach “Zavial”. The owners and siblings Ivo and Neuza (the mom is the chef) are great boogie boarders and have won several international contests (you can see them on amazing photos on the walls of the restaurant).

Some tips for food around Sagres:

  • Pizza Mobile– small pizza place that also offers gluten free pizza in Salema
  • Three Little Birds – a surfer bar that offers great drinks, burgers, sandwiches & snacks
  • Restaurante O Lourenço – small but fine restaurant that offers a great selection of fresh fish and seafood
  • Chiringuito Last Chance – small café with a terrace and great view over Mareta beach that offers coffee, drinks, tapas and snacks

→ Check out our next stop: Lisbon

→ Check out our next stop: Lisbon

Saint-Tropez | France

GLAMPING” – WE ARE PART OF A TREND

→ We arrive the region of Saint-Tropez in the South of France and stay on one of the nicest camping sites in Europe – “Camp du Domaine” right at the ocean in the small village Bormes-les-Mimosas – 5-star deluxe camping right at the ocean (“Glamping” = glamorous camping). Since it is low season, we are lucky to get a first-row spot right at the beach with a view over a scenic bay. Our first experience sleeping in our VW California in between many hardcore campers is nicer than expected and we even decide to extend our stay at this spotless and cozy campsite.

We take a few days to explore the region and because it is low season, we see everything from its true and authentic side without any mass-tourism – Saint-Tropez is just adorable at this time of year. We walk along the harbor, drink espresso in the traditional and prominent café “Senequier” and gaze at the people walking by and the super expensive Yachts that lie along the harbor. If you are lucky, you may see the famous French actress Brigitte Bardot. We then walk through the beautiful streets and old-town with numerous boutiques. You can find really nice bikinis, men’s swimming shorts and beach towels in my favorite shop “Kiwi”. We allow ourselves some calories and have a super delicious “Tarte Tropizienne” that we enjoy at twilight on a bench on the central marketplace, where old and young locals meet to play Boule.

Jet Set not required

Our next trip takes us to the small but picturesque villages Grimaud and Ramatuelle that lie on small hills surrounded by a scenic landscape just behind Saint-Tropez. The villages are just lovely and we spend hours walking through the small streets with cozy restaurants, cafés and art galleries. On the way back, we take a short stop at the famous Vineyard “Minuty” and buy a few bottles of Rosé for comfortable evenings that lie ahead.

One unforgettable experience is our coastal hike just outside Saint-Tropez from “Plage de L’Escalet” going south-west to “Plage de Gigaro”. The path takes us along the coast through a green and rocky landscape, past white dunes and sandy beaches in small bays – it is just spectacular. After a few hours hiking, we get a well-deserved dinner at “Couleurs Jardin”, a comfortable restaurant right on the beach with superb kitchen.

→ Check out our next stop: Barcelona

→ Check out our next stop: Barcelona

Uzès – Provence | France

VILLAGE OF THE HERBS

→ Next stop South of France! After driving several hours through Switzerland and France, we go to a place that we’ve been before – Uzès in middle of Provence. It is the city of herbs with fascinating charm and wonderful hospitality. The historic buildings and walls from past centuries, give the city a mystical feeling and we discover new things in the numerous winding streets and alleys. We stay the night at the relatively new and cozy Boutique „Hotel Entraigues”, within a nicely restructured historic building. The hotel restaurant specializes in local cuisine with regional organic products – too bad we missed eating there, unfortunately, it is closed on Wednesdays (other guests say it is “excellent”). We decide to have a snack at “Les Terriers“, a small typical French Bistro in the center of town right at Place aux Herbes (plaza of the herbs) – this place serves small plates and sells items by providers and farmers from the region. We save some space for dessert and go straight across the plaza to “La Fabrique Giverée – Artiste Glacier“. They produce their own ice cream with own creations and products from the region – you need to try their salted caramel flavor.

A small highlight is the small and nondescript restaurant “Piano, Piano” at the edge of the town center. The friendly owners and staff offer a changing daily menus and the food is just great – we love the main course fresh seared tuna with vegetables and potato puree.

The next days we stay at the really cozy hotel “La Buissonniere” on the picturesque countryside about 15 minutes outside of Uzès. The beautiful estate has a large garden with plants from the region like lavender and olive trees. The friendly German couple Natascha and Jörg and their super speedy turtle “Rakete” (Rocket) realized a small dream by taking over this place a few years ago. As a special event, they invite their friends and guests every year to participate at their annual olive harvest (by hand!), where each guests receives a bottle of freshly pressed olive oil. The evenings at La Buissionnaire are really romantic: We enjoy amazing dinners, personally cooked by Natascha, on the patio of the hotel surrounded antique buildings and with a view on the lovely garden. We will certainly come back.

→ Check out our next stop: Saint-Tropez

→ Check out our next stop: Saint-Tropez