The Guesthouse I stayed in in Sintra: Lanui Guesthouse

La Nui means have a good trip in Hawaiian and it is the name of the guesthouse I spent three nights in in Sintra! Lanui is a family run guesthouse by Daniel and his wife. She is the creative brain and visionary of the place and he is the force that made it all possible while working another full time job! It took them a year to get the permit for this guesthouse to start working on it and making it liveable. Everything you see in there, they did it themselves. This family team have transferred the house into a stylish escape. You can see the work in progress images on their Facebook page. They are still working to transfer the back garden to a fairytale like space with beds and cushions under fruit trees and shades. 

I know most websites recommend a day trip to Sintra but staying there for two full days was a great way to see the city without rush. We woke up and just took our time. We started the days by making our own breakfast and eating in the guesthouse's garden then taking off to explore a different part. I would have easily stayed there for a couple extra days. 

The guesthouse is a shared space with shared bathrooms, but there are a three of them, so we didn't have to wait on anyone. We can just go to the other available ones. Each room is named after a famous place in Sintra, which was a cute idea and it even gave us some ideas of places to visit that we haven't considered! Having a fully equipped kitchen was nice to prepare light things in the morning. I liked the living room as well. We got to meet other travellers and chat to them.  

Overall, we loved the atmosphere and the space. In addition, Daniel did his absolute best to make our visit as comfortable as possible! He was very kind and helpful. He even arranged some surfing lessons for us in the nearby fishing village. 

Alongside the clam and well maintained Sintra guesthouse, Lanui has three other properties around Portugal that you might be interested in:

To book your stay with Lanui, you can contact them directly through their website or on booking.com

Disclaimer: This was a press stay, but all opinions are my own. 

Lisbon DIY Graffiti (Street Art) Tour

Lisbon has a great selection of public/street art. There are also lots of tour on offer that would take you around and lead you to fantastic pieces around the city. 

I spotted the first piece in Alfahma during the Lisbon Photography Tour I took. Just walking around that area was full of little (and big) colourful surprises. Most Street Art walking tour go around that area. In attempt to spread tourists around the city of Lisbon, Graffiti artists collaborated to paint across the city. To properly see them all, you would need a car. 

We didn't have a car, so we started by going to the Under-Dog Art Store, which is located inside the Montana Lisboa Art Store (Address: Rua da Cintura do Porto, armazém A, nº 20 Cais do Sodré, Lisboa). The Underdog section of the store has a big map that shows you where the major pieces of art are located. You can also purchase a paper map -for 1.50- with the main spots and locations. We didn't have a lot of time, so we went to the Hall of Fame, which had lots of major art that was completed in a previous event. It was basically a very long circular wall (photos below). We also found a few other pieces by chance and walking around. 

You can also arrange a tour with the Under-Dog Art Store, but that needs a minimum of three days notice! 

Recommended Eats in Lisbon 

I don't usually write extensively about food on this blog, but since I found that the food in Lisbon and Sintra was a hit and miss, I thought I will share the hits. In the six days I was there, I got a couple of mouth watering meals and a couple of really bad meals that I couldn't even finish. Be warned this post will make you hungry! I am already craving them.  

Few pointers about eating in Lisbon: 

- I know Cod fish is very popular in Portugal, but unfortunately all the Cods I tried were very poor and came from the bottom of the freezer. I would advice you to get sea bass or sea bream instead since all the ones I had were VERY good! 

- All bread and little plates of cheese, cold meat, olives, butter and other things that come to your table when you sit down are NOT FREE! Thankfully, I knew that before visiting from the blogs I read.

- It's very difficult to find decent lunch/dinner from 3pm to 6pm. The only places open are fast food or just below average food. So make sure you eat lunch before 3pm and just wait for after 6 or even 7 for dinner to get better options. 

Breakfast in Lisbon: 

Fábrica Lisboa

We stumbled across this gem by chance. It's small and it doesn't seat more than 20 I don't think, but it's cozy and very quirky. Plus, the croissants, which is their specialty is really fresh and just yummy. I had an egg, cheese and tomato croissant that was just YUM! They have a few other options too. 

Breakfast in Lisbon

Gelato in Lisbon: 

Fiori Gelateria
Cais Do Sodré, 1200 Lisbon

I know not a meal, BUT I really liked this little place and ended up going twice! 

Dinner in Lisbon:

Sea Food dinner in Lisbon: Valbom
Avenida Conde de Valbom 104 112, Lisbon 1050-070, Portugal

Freshest sea food I have ever eaten! SO good that the fish melts in your mouth. They are such pros and you can tell from the fish on ice at the entrance and the special fish knives. The atmosphere was nice, but the interior is very basic. We went late at 10pm, so it wasn't too busy. This was out of the toursity area and had mostly locals. 

Fresh Fish in Lisbon

Fancy Dinner in Lisbon:

Bistro 100 Maneiras

Be aware this is not an affordable option, but well worth the money! It was a birthday treat for my partner and he loved it!! So if you are looking for a very special place to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary this is it! We were very lucky that we got a table without a prior reservation. They even have a list of delicious mocktails that are made to perfection. I got to try Dragonfly while waiting. You should say yes to their bread! It's so fresh and yummy. The starters and dessert were my favourite. I almost made a dance eating them! We tried the egg, mushroom and asparagus starter that came in a jar and the shrimp mini sandwiches without the ham. The mains we tried were very good. We had the vegetarian pasta and the shrimp risotto, but I would love to try something else if I ever go back. The dessert was the chocolate mouse with mint and berries in a jar. That was an epic finale! Their portions were really good and we were super stuffed by the end. By the way, the decor is also lovely! Their bar area and ground floor dinning hall are creative. The upstairs one is nice but not as gorgeous as the downstairs. 

Oh yes! And of course the Pastel De Nata was my addiction that whole week. I think I had two a day, which I thought was quiet good considering that I wanted two each time I have one... I confess, I didn't even make it to Belem and I didn't try them in the most pastry in Portugal, BUT I had one from almost every shop that sold them that I saw on my way! The only thing you need to look for is that they are fresh and warm. They were all so yummy and custard-y! Would love to learn the secret to learning how to make the prefect one. 

Pastel De Nata

Hope you find these recommendations useful and I really hope they remain as good by the time you try them! 

Over to you: What were your favourite places that you have tried and absolutely loved in Lisbon and the areas around? 

The Guesthouse I stayed in in Lisbon

It was really hard to find a good priced place in Lisbon, but I knew they had a good metro system, so I expanded my search to include areas that are accessible by metro, which lead me to find this lovely gem! The building itself is just an average building, but the rooms inside the flat were beautiful! Maria, the owner of the place has put in so much effort to personalise each room with gorgeous vintage pieces that she bought and refurbished herself from antique and vintage markets. She has a great taste and all the decor ideas are her own. I loved  supporting a local female who is working hard to provide and excellent service to the visitors of Lisbon. 

There a few rooms in the apartment with three bathrooms. The sunset shed -where we stayed- has its own bathroom. There is also a shared lounge and a fully equipped kitchen. Each room has a cute name and a little board that has the name of the country where the guests have come from! My absolute favourite thing was the recommendation folder that Maria has prepared for her guests of places to eat and visit. I tried one of the restaurants she recommended and it was as delicious as promised!  

The location of this guesthouse is fantastic. It is away from the touristy areas, which means the restaurants around serve really nice food with decent prices. Plus, it's not crowded at all and very accessible to other parts in the city and the airport. I would love to go back to the same guesthouse or that location when I visit again! 

To book your room at the Flower Court Guesthouse, you can book directly on the website or on booking.com

Disclaimer: I got a press rate for this accomedation, but all opinions are my own. 

Over to you: Where was your favourite place you stayed in Lisbon? 

Lisbon Photography Tour + Photography Tips

Going to Lisbon for the first time and staying there very briefly I was worried I will get overwhelmed by all the possibilities and miss on seeing the city from the eye of a local, So, I decided to book a photography tour! I have never done one before and I am so glad I did. 

After a quick google search and reading some reviews, I contacted Miguel Helfrich -also known as- Lisbon Photo to ask about the available options. He was very responsive and helpful. We settled on Lisbon Photo Tour: Around Castelo and Alfama. The tour started at 8am and lasted until 12pm with half an hour break. It was an interesting experience because we got to see the city quietly before all the tourists woke up. We didn't even run into anyone until the last half an hour. It felt like we were alone in the city because Miguel knew the best routes to avoid the crowd.

From the first moment we met Miguel, we started talking about photography. Miguel is a professional photographer who is certified from the Portuguese Photography Institute. He has very cool photography experiences.  He was very helpful in directing us on the best angles and the nicest compositions. We also got to hear few fun stories about Lisbon and the areas we passed by. 

Photography Tour in Lisbon

Five Photography Tips from Lisbon Photo

  1. Kis: Keep it Simple
    No need to complicate things and include too many elements. Just keep the composition simple and focus on specific things rather than fitting everything you see in the frame. 
  2. Follow the Lines
    The amazing thing about many buildings and windows in Lisbon is their sharp, obvious lines, so focus on one line when taking the photo to create interesting geometric compositions. 
  3. Colours the Camera loves
    There are a few tones that the camera loves especially grey ones and when you find such compositions take time to explore how the camera react to those colours. We found one spot like that and all the photos from there were absolutely gorgeous.   
  4. Level up
    I did this mistake a few times, where I found a subject and just took a picture without moving, but if you want a truly great photo, get close and personal to level yourself up with the subject to get great results. 
  5. Add depth to your images  
    Having layers in your image makes their impact stronger. Have a few angles one in the front and another in the back. 

Relevant Posts:

Below are some of the photos that were taken on the tour and more information about the tour options. 

Other photography tour options:

Of course you can go to Photo Lisbon 's website and see all the options for yourself, but here are a few that I thought some of you might be interested in:

  •  Day tours in specific neighbourhoods in Lisbon like Alfama (which is the one I did) or a Night tour to play with light and different compositions. 
  • Honeymoon/Hen Do/Personal Photoshoot and photography tour: I get the feeling most of you would love this! So you don't only get to photograph the city, but you have a professional photographer with you to take photos of you!! I think that will be so much fun if you were on your own, on a hen do with the girls or of course a honeymoon!  
  • VIP Tour: If you want to go all out to see and photograph Lisbon from sea, land or air, you can book this on. Miguel will book a private helicopter without doors for you! 
  • Family photo challenge (Amazing for kids!!)
    This one might be great for the parents who are looking for something creative for their kids to do because the kids get to solve some challenges then get to shoot them!

To book your photography tour, workshop or experience, go to Lisbon Photo and book directly

Disclaimer: This tour was purchased with a media rate, but all opinions are my own! 

Over to you: Have you tried a photography tour before? Where was it and what did you think?

Nine Things to do this Summer in London (Ideas for Summer activities in London)

This is my second London summer and I am loving it. It's surprising all the beautiful sunny days that we have had so far! Obviously, there was rain here and there, but it is still a beautiful season in London. It actually got really hot two weeks ago (30 degree) and I had to order a cooling fan! It arrived after the weather cooled down, but I am hoping it will get a little hot during July and August! 

Summer in London

Things to do in London this summer

Every summer, I make a list of things I want to do before the season ends. My list has lots of things and I thought it will be fun to share with you all! Hope you get to try some of these idea!  

Summer in London Activity 1: Park Picnics

I know this is the most obvious one, but it's so much fun! I would recommend that you go to a few this season and make most of your summer outdoors! By the way, forget Hyde Park. I seriously don't go there unless I am forced or there is something extra special happening there! I like: Regent Park, Greenwich Park and Richmond Park. Regent is the most central one of the three, but the other two are out of the way and can be great for a more peaceful park time away. The added benefit of Richmond is the deer you can spot there! There are also gardens that allow picnic like Kew Gardens.   

Find more London parks on: 

The best parks in London

24 quiet London parks and secret gardens to escape to

Ps. You can see some of the Greenwich Park in my Greenwich video below!

Summer in London - Park Picnic

Summer in London Activity 2: Art Festivals

The first one that comes to mind is Shubak Festival and it's an Arab art festival with lots of art related activities happening across two weeks. It only started three days ago, so you have time to checkout the rest of the activities they have on offer! I am planning to go to the art exhibitions they have arranged. 

Summer in London Activity 3: Music Gigs and Festivals

I have to admit. I got this idea slightly late! Most tickets are sold out at this point, but there are still few going! There is a great lineup happening in Somerset House. I am slightly sad I am not spending most of July in London because there is just SO MUCH to see and attend. There are also few music and art events to check in the Barbican Centre.   

More Music gigs and festivals from other websites: 

Music Festivals in London during 2017

Summer in London Activity 4: Rooftop Crawl

I haven't done much of this *yet* but I went to a few spots last. The only rooftop garden I have been to was the Canary Wharf: The Crossrail Place Roof Garden. It's small, but it's nice to chill after grabbing some food from one of the restaurants downstairs!

I have four more places to try this season on evenings with nice weather: 

I would also like to go to the fancy Sky Garden one of those days.

A full list of the best Roof spots can be found (here). 

Summer in London - Golden Tattoo

Summer in London Activity 5: Outdoor Cinema

This is very weather dependent. Although it is technically summer, but with the unpredictable British weather, this could be taken over by rain. It's still worth doing and luckily there are few venues that do that! 

The Luna Cinema has a list of movies that are shown in a number of London venues.

The Nomad Cinema does cinema pop ups at various venue around London too!  

Summer in London Activity 6: Stuffing face with Ice Cream! 

Like seriously this is my favourite thing to do the second I see sunshine! There are lots of great locations to get yummy ice cream from such Chin Chin Labs, Snowflake gelato, Gelupo or even your local supermarket. Doesn't matter where from just stuff your face with as much as ice cream as possible! 

Chin Chin Lab ice cream - Summer in London

Summer in London Activity 7: Lavender Fields

I don't know if you noticed all the instagramers last year posting beautiful photos in lavender fields. My instagram was seriously flooded with those photos and I just had to get one there too! I went to the Hitchin Lavender Fields (45mins from London by train). I still have my full bag of lavenders from last year, so I am not sure if I am doing it again this summer, but it was so much fun! They have a really nice cafe too that is worth chilling in! 

Summer in London Activity 8: Fruit Picking

This is basically the same idea as the lavender field above. I haven't done this yet, but I am planning on going next month! There are a few strawberry and berries farms that are very close to London such as

Stan Hill Farm

Hewitts Farm

Copas Farms

Here are more choices from other websites: 

Ps. I suggest checking google maps for the nearest locations to you! London is huge, but since I am closer to the South I have only focused on that area. There are plenty scattered around.  

Summer in London Activity 9: Day Trips!

Yes this is not technically in London, but very accessible from one of the Central London train stations. Few weeks ago, I went on a country forest walk to Ashridge. Being under the shade, walking and eating ice cream was one of the best things I have done! There are many possible walks all around London. There are beach walks too! Last summer, I went on a beach one to Hayling Island. This summer I want to go to Portsmouth and Brighton!  

For even more ideas here is a list of activities for July and August from the London Time Out website:

Over to you: What's on your summer activities list? 

Where to Stay in Malta and Gozo

While searching online for places to stay in Malta, I got easily confused, so now after I am back, I decided to do a mini area guide to help you decide where you want to stay. It's surprising how much I felt I knew the two Islands after just few days there. I am sure the locals know the real secrets of the islands, but here are my findings regarding the areas! Hope you find it useful. 

Where to stay in Malta?

Sleima

A very lively part of town with access to halal restaurants, entertainment and boat trips and tours. It's not easy to find very budget friendly places, but there are plenty of options. 

Sliema Marina Hotel seems like a very decent option. 

Valletta

That's Malt's capital and it's close to the airport, so it might be worth staying there for your last night. It's a busy area though. Valletta Mint Apartment 1 looks really nice. 

Mdina  

If you would like to be close to the old city and enjoy some of Malta's history and be away from the noise of the centre, it might be nice to stay in Mdina. Plus being there means you are slightly closer to the second island, which is handy if you plan to visit Gozo. Melitte's guest house looks very cozy! 

Photo from the Mdina 

Photo from the Mdina 

Where to stay in Gozo?

Next to the port

This is a great location if you are only in Gozo for a short time and you need to leave early. That's where I stayed. It was useful when I get into Gozo from the long airport trip, but it's a little far from Gozo's attractions. I stayed in Globetrotters Guest house

Victoria

This is the centre of Gozo and it's a great point to stay and have everything accessible. I found the Duke Boutique Hotel and it looks very central and pretty.  

Xlendi

This is a lovely, family friendly finishing village and it's not too far from Victoria, but much quieter. Mario Hideaway is located very close to the beach and it looks good. 

Gharb

This translates to West in Arabic and as the name suggests it's in the West of the island and close to Dwjera. Mood Farmhouse Mythology seems like a nice option. 

Marsalforn

This area is accessible to the Ramla beach and the North beaches of the Island. I looked at the options and Murella Living looks really pretty.   

Ramla beach

Ramla beach

Note: It is always handy to decide on the activities and the spots you want to visit and then choose a place to stay accordingly. 

Booking.com

* This post includes affiliate links. If you book any of these hotels using my links, I get a commission from Booking.com with no extra costs to you! 

Over to you: Have you been to Malta or Gozo? What was your favourite area and where would you recommend to stay?

Is the Hop on and Hop off worth it in Malta and Gozo?

As you walk around the island you see the red bus trumping up and down. It makes everything look easy and the distances doable. It was also recommended to me by a friend who visited Malta previously. The bus is on both of the islands and I tried it in both. This is what I thought in details:

The Hop on and Hop off Bus in Malta

Bus costs 15 euros per person (usually 20 according to the driver)

The distances of Malta are vast and it takes a while to get from one end to the other. We got on the bus from the last ending point Rotunda because the bus from the Ferry took us there. Then we made our way to point one in Bugibba all the way to point 22, which took two hours. The route map with numbers below or could be accessed from the official website. We could have gotten off, but there was not much to see in terms of the architecture in that route we took. We passed by few quiet beaches though. 

Hop on and Hop off  Malta Bus Route

The bus goes over the edge of the island so there are a lot of sea fronts to enjoy. The upper deck was nice, but then it got really windy. Being on the bus gives you an over view of the island. The downside was the information points on the bus didn't work, so it was like riding any bus without knowing any inside information about the place. Also, the famous places are accessible by public buses and only costs you 1.50 euros per person. Due to the big distances of Malta, I felt like the bus was taking much longer time than it needed. It also stopped at a number of hotels and sea fronts rather than historic and natural sights. Without being on it, I wouldn't have known how unnecessary this bus was. I would not recommend it for Malta.  

The Hop on and Hop off Bus in Malta 

The Hop on an Hop off Bus in Gozo

Bus costs 10 euros per person (usually 18 according to the tourism office)

Since Gozo is much smaller, getting the Hop on and off bus was a very different experience. Plus, the information deck was functional, so it was nice knowing more about the place while passing it. With the Gozo bus, we actually hopped off a few times to enjoy the place for 45 minutes at a time and then headed to the next stop. The only downside was we took the bus slightly later and didn't enjoy it to its full potential. I guess Gozo as well could have been done with just the normal public transport bus, but the hop on and off came quicker and followed a nice route. I think it was worth it. My friend E and I really enjoyed our time on it! 

The Hop on an Hop off Bus in Gozo Route Map
The Hop on an Hop off Bus in Gozo

Making the most of Instagram stories

Instagram stories have been the highlight for a few months now. When Instagram came out with that new feature, many resisted because it was a rip off of snapchat. I really wanted to stand by Snapchat and just ignore the Instagram stories, but I couldn't! The appeal of them was too strong and my audience is much bigger on Instagram. The thing I like the most in the Insta stories is the option to see who exactly is viewing the stories and seeing their interests and profiles. A few features have been added a few weeks ago such as the location and the hashtags. Those two have really helped me reach to more people that I thought I was losing!

I found five useful ways for using Instagram stories and I thought you might make a use of them too!  

1- Post something on your story at least once a day

With the very annoying algorithm of Instagram that makes you see only the people and the posts it thinks you are interested in, I stopped seeing many posts from the 850 people I follow. When the stories pop up on the top of the page, I remember those people exist.  I see the stories of people I haven't seen in my feeds in ages, which is good because then I click on their profiles and find that I haven't even seen their last 10 photos! My insta story views are significantly higher than my post likes. The most likes I have been getting lately on my travel instagram is 150, but my story views reach to over 400, which is massive to me! 

Ps. Don't over share though. The more stories you have, the more people you will loose. 

Impression of Instagram Stories
Instagram Story Viewers

2- Make it interesting

The Instagram stories need a little more thought unlike snapchat. Some avid instagrammers even go to the lengths of editing videos with an editing software such as Premier pro to create a much more engaging story. You can certainly do that, but you can also be interesting without spending too much time on there. I especially love the Boomerang option! It only needs a slight movement and it gives more life. I generally prefer sharing videos on insta stories and keep the good photos for the feed. Another thing people seem to enjoy is process! My art instagram gets so much love when I share a process for a new piece of art. I also get more views and engagement out of that. 

3- Add a location

One of the coolest, newest things about the Instagram stories is the public story based on a location. All you have to do is to take a photo or a video then add the location and Instagram will automatically add you to the public story. I am not sure what's the reasoning behind who gets shown or not, but it's really cool when it happens. I got 100 views once from a specific London location. This also means that your story will show up (for 24 hours) when someone is searching the chosen location.   

4- Add a hashtag

A hashtag is the key to be found on Instagram and I am so excited that Instagram has added this to the story features. I have been using relevant popular tags and it's been working. For example, I used #Ramadan2017 a few times this month since I know many people are looking it up. I got a good amount of views just out of adding that. Instagram tells you how many views you are getting from a specific location or a hashtag. Worth adding for sure! 

Instagram Stories Hashtags

5- Call to action

Call to Action on Instagram

This is what makes your story shift from an individual's point of view to an engaging story. Talk to your viewers. Don't only give them orders to check links, but also attempt to have a conversation. Ask about their days, favourite activities and recommendation. It's fun to see what people have to say and it gives you a more personal view of your followers and their interests. I posted once asking people if they are interested in visiting unusual locations like Uzbekistan and after few minutes I got five responses from people who were intrigued. Not many, but it's still something!  


More Instagram posts that you might like: 

Instagram Tips and Highlights from Polkadots Passport

Instagram shadowban and how to get around it

Instagram Fully Explained 

Instagram as a Research Tool

Over to you: Do you have any ways to use the Insta stories to their fullest potential?

Hijabi Friendly Outfits for an Island Holiday in Malta

Malta is a gorgeous island and having few pretty outfits to match is a must! I tried my best to look stylish while modest. I also needed to pick light outfit so I can survive the island's summer heat. Thankfully I visited Malta end of May, which meant that the weather was still beautiful and breezy. Hope you like the outfits!  

Hijabi Friendly Outfits for an Island Holiday

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Modest Fashion Ideas

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Modest Activewear Ideas

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Summer Modest Fashion

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PS. All outfits were packed in carry on, so that's fantastic if you like to travel light!