“I may not have gone
where I intended to go,
but I think I have ended up
where I intended to be.”
Alain de Botton
From museums, art galleries, gardens, enormous monuments and stunning architecture, to delicious food and wine, and welcoming people… Madrid knows how to switch it on.
One of the things EB and I love to do when we hit a new city is to walk. A lot.
So it’s no surprise that hitting the streets with a bunch of like-minded food and wine lovers, and getting the inside goss from a local expert, is the perfect thing to do.
In many of the cities we visit, we’ll book into a foodie and vino tour, just to get a feel for the place.
This time we’re off on Viator’s Madrid Tapas Night Walking Tour. Apart from practicing weird cider pouring methods and learning the joys of tapas and Spanish wine on a tour like this, we often pick up tips and tour ideas from fellow travellers and have heaps of fun doing it.
Back out on the streets on our own, we soon discover some favourite places to hang out, like Vinoteca Vides on Calle Libertad (freedom street). It’s the place to be for brilliant wines, switched-on service and a great atmosphere…
With our thing for Asian-fusion food, we can’t walk past Bambubox and we’re not disappointed.
This is Thai food with a delicious modern twist, served by our lovely waiter (now friend) Thao!
Of course, there are so many great places to eat (it is Spain after all), but it’s not just about the amazing food, wine and people (well, it kind of is…).
There are wonderful – sometimes overwhelming – palaces, monuments, galleries, gardens and buildings in Madrid, and it seems that around every corner there is something divine or surreal!
Ah Madrid, such a colourful, welcoming and fascinating city. But don’t take our word for it – put it on your wishlist and see for yourself. We might even bump into you there…
Monuments and other tourist tick-off points are impressive, but our favourite thing to do is to take to the streets on foot. Apart from the odd slippery cobblestone, we inevitably stumble upon the unexpected and delightful.
The sign on the street says ‘gin lovers’. Yep that’s me. Besides, we’ve been walking for hours (and it’s hot) so this is the perfect place to stop.
Inside we know we’ve found somewhere special. This is Embaixada, a unique Portuguese shopping gallery created in a XIX century Arabian Palace.
An ornate staircase draws our eyes upwards to the sensational murals and figurines, and beyond.
In the palace rooms, national brands and recreated vintage clothing mix with the work of local artists and artisans.
Even a non-shopper like me can get blissed-out here (and I have the credit card hit to prove it).
Eventually, we stop at Gin Lovers Principe Real in the centre of this jaw-dropping building for a delicious gin & tonic (or three) from their extensive list – and some amazing food.
Like so many Portuguese people we’ve met here, everyone is friendly and enthusiastic. No wonder they call it ‘the meeting place’…
When the street is your canvas, the possibilities are endless in Lisbon.
From commissioned to clandestine, and gaudy to subtle – street art is everywhere here.
I notice so many people don’t really ‘see’ it as they hurry past, but to me it says so much about the creative energy of a city…
Street art isn’t everyone’s thing, but it’s one of my passions. No doubt I’ll be banging on more about it some other 60 seconds. Meanwhile…
Portuguese people love their food and it shows (in a good way!).
There’s something to satisfy the foodies, the fuellers and everyone in between in the many small cafés and impressive restaurants and wine bars sprinkled liberally across the city.
And the vino, port and spirits. Phew.
We soon redefine our perception of a ‘glass’ of wine. It ‘s more like a small carafe in a glass.
A ‘tasting’ can also be the entire glass filled to the brim. Per taste. Which makes pacing yourself pretty much impossible.
Then there’s the traditional sherry, Ginja. We’re told it’s taken as both an aperitif and an after-dinner drink.
I’m sure there are plenty of happy home chefs using Ginja too – and some of it might even make it into the cooking.
Perhaps it’s all that fabulous wine. Perhaps it’s just this place. The Portuguese may be struggling economically but they don’t let it affect their open and generous spirit.
So come to Lisbon, take to the streets and come alive here.
It’s impossible not to.
If you’re living or staying on the coast in the NSW Northern Rivers region and you’re feeling a little ‘beached out’, it might be time to head inland to Murwillumbah for a change of scenery – and to visit a simply stunning regional art gallery.
The Lonely Planet describes the Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre as ‘exceptional’ and ‘an architectural delight’ – and you won’t be disappointed.
While it wouldn’t be out of place in a major city, the gallery sits with elegance and attitude in the hills overlooking the Tweed River.
From Wednesday to Sunday you’ll see an amazing collection of works in a variety of media, along with touring exhibitions of national significance across six exhibition spaces.
And then there is the incredible Margaret Ollie Art Centre.
Here, the celebrated Australian painter’s home studio has been meticulously recreated from photographs taken within 10 days of her passing in 2011.
All that art can work up an appetite, but that’s covered here too.
Step into the Gallery Cafe for some delicious food and bevs, before heading off to soak up the vintage village atmosphere in the township of Murwillumbah.
It’s a perfect way to spend a lazy summer’s day. No sunscreen required.
For 10 days each September, Currumbin Beach comes alive with creativity and wonder at the annual SWELL Sculpture Festival.
It’s the perfect way to spend a blissful spring day, with over 60 sculptures stretching one kilometre along the beachfront at the southern end of Queensland’s Gold Coast. The only challenge is to pick your favourite.
Created by artists from across Australia and the world, the sculptures range from hugely spectacular to tiny but powerful, with some coming alive at night (in a good way). And each has a story…
These are just some of my favourites – but there are so many brilliant works, it’s impossible to choose. I think the last word has to go to Greg Quinton and his Hills Hoist sculpture: You should always know where your towel is.