La Paz – Orange City in the Andies

La Paz is the capital of Bolivia and in our opinion very underrated. Located southeast of Lake Titicaca the highest capital city in the world (roughly 3650m) lies majestic in a canyon surrounded by mountains of the Altiplano.

Coming in all you see in houses, orange houses and some little skyscrapers in the centre.

One special attraction you will immediately notice is the cable car system. Opened in 2014 it has currently eight lines in use, three more under construction. With 4000m above sea level, the system is the worlds highest. It is an easy way for locals to get through the crowded city centre.

The city is very crowded, full off cars and people. You will love it and you will hate it.

Economically the city has improved over the past years due to a new political stability. The area of ElAlto grew so fast that in 1987 it was found as its own city independent to La Paz.

Our recommendations on what to do in La Paz:

  1. Cable Car Tour of La Paz and neighbourhoods. The guides will take you on three different cable car lines to the Cementedio General La Paz, to its neighbor city El Alto, the witches market and back into the city centre. (A recommendation from our tour guide is to visit the witches market in El Alto as it is bigger and more authentic)
  1. Black Market in El Alto. Take the red cable car from La Paz to El Alto, switch to the blue line and get off the last stop. If you go from there to the Main Street every Thursday and Sunday you will find the biggest market selling anything you might need.
  2. Go to Plaza Murillo to sit and relax and take some photographs.
  1. A Bolivia Hop tour to Lake Titicaca. If you stay in one of the main hostels/ hotels in the city centre they will pick you up in the morning and drop you back off at night if you do the one day trip, which includes pick up and drop off, Copacabana and a one hour boats drip to and back from the Sun Island to Copacabana. Find our experience here.

We realised as soon as we arrived that we have not planned in enough time for La Paz. We just chose Bolivia as the most convenient place to get to Lake Titicaca but the country and La Paz are definitely underrated and we recommend to stay 3 – 4 days.

~Nadine

~Susannah

Feliza, a place for LGBT in Buenos Aires

Located right on the border of Palermo and Almagro you find Feliza, an LGBT Bar/Club.

This female led bar is open Thursdays to Sunday’s and closed the rest of the week.

It has a great atmosphere, good music and themed cocktails. You can grab some food nachos and pizza as well!

It took us a while to find the entrance as it has no signs visible from the outside. So we headed to the house with the blue Fassade and the rainbow light coming from the inside. As soon as we entered it was quite obvious that this is a place where everyone goes to.

The main bit with stage and bar has tables and seats where you can enjoy the cabaret shows or you can go down the corridor there are different themed rooms and at the end a retro gaming room. Upstairs are two gardens/ a Terrace where you can relax.

The atmosphere was great, the place was filled with locals and tourists partying or just enjoying a social drink.

Buenos Aires – A European City in South America?

Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina located at the east coast of the country was a very welcomed contrast to Brazil.

The city feels very European, with avenues reminding us of Paris and Rome filled with restaurants, cafes and independent stores.

European architecture is throughout the city, including churches and mansions. The most spectacular of these is the Cathedral in the Plaza de Mayo.

The city is kept very clean considering the amount of cream tiles along the main avenues.

There is also a well established transport system across the city. You can easily get from one side to the other with the use of the Metro or the numerous buses.

The metro runs on 6 lines named: A,B,C,D,E and H. A single trip costs 12.90 Peso’s. You can get a card for 60 pesos which can be topped up.

Taxis are also popular, however if you take one remember to take change as they don’t take change. Uber exists in Buenos Aires but is limited due to city taxi drivers disliking them so much. When we took a Uber from our hotel to the bus station, Nadine was told to sit in the front so the car didn’t look like a Uber taxi. After looking this up, we found that some Uber drivers have been beaten up and their cars set on fire!

Argentina’s economy has slumped in recent years with the exchange rate (£ – Peso) being £1 – 50 Argentine Peso. This makes Buenos Aires a cheap city to visit, however the country is overall poorer with the rise in inflation and cuts to spending, meaning citizens are generally poorer. A coffee will set you back 55 Peso’s (£1.10) and a decent meal will set you back 250 Peso’s (£5).


LGBTQI+ Rights:

Argentina legalised same sex marriage in 2010 and has the most advanced LGBT rights in South America.

Buenos Aires definitely has the scene to prove it. The area of Palermo has a variety of LGBT night clubs, with some being more male dominated.

Check out our experience in a female ranabaret/retro game/club.

Nearly all the restaurants in Buenos Aires are gay friendly and this was definitely the city we felt most comfortable holding nhands in public.


Our top 5 recommendations:

  1. Evita Museum
  2. Mercado San Telmo
  3. Catedral Metropolitana
  4. Plaza de Mayo
  5. National Museum

The Evita Museum tells the story of Eva Peron the the actress to Evita the national hero of Argentina. How she fought to build up her career to how she installed a social system in Argentina, helping woman to earn the right to vote. Spending approx. an hour there will leave you absolutely fascinated.

Mercado San Telmo is an indoor market where you can get anything from fresh fruits, one the best coffees in Buenos Aires to antiques of all kind. You can easily spend two hours there.

The Cathedral is beautifully decorated. You can take pictures insight and probably spend 15-20 minutes there.

Plaza de Mayo is a beautiful 19th century square in the heard of Buenos Aires with cathedrals, museums and a government building around.

The national museum tells you the political story of the country. It has the first ever painted Argentinien flag and time spent there is approx. 40-50 minutes.

Buenos Aires: 1 Day Tour!

To start your day of with, have a breakfast and great coffee at one of Buenos Aires amazing cafes.

Stop one is the Mercado San Telmo. Located in the heart of Buenos Aires the market which opened its doors in 1897 offers everything from antiques to fresh fruits and coffee.

You can get one of the best coffees in Buenos Aires here. Take some time to walk through the stalls and look out for some bargains.

From here walk only 4mins to Plaza Dorrego.

In this 18th century square wagons with goods would stop.

Today it’s a public space with Cafés, Antique Shops (walk along Defensa), live tango dancers and bars where people just sit have a drink, relax and watch the performers.

|Top tip: Come here on a Sunday when the place transforms into the Feria de San Telmo. Locals as well as tourist will be in the streets watching live tango performer, strolling through the countless stalls and enjoy drinks and music.|

Last stop of the day is the Parque Lezama with the National History Museum.

The park is perfect to just sit down and take a minute for yourself. The museum is unlike many other National Museums just about the Political history of the country. From its colonisation to the independence of Argentina. It is all in Spanish but you can get a folder with pages of Information in English.

We have been lucky as the museum was quite empty and one of the guards gave us a “private” tour. Luckily Nadine speaks Spanish and could translate.

~Nadine

~Susannah

#elenão – our impression of a powerful movement

During our trip in Rio, we were walking past the domestic airport as we suddenly found ourselves witnessing a convoy of heavily armed military police surrounded by supporters leaving the airport.

As we found out later this was Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing presidential front-runner. As we knew quite little about the political situation in Brazil we were shocked when googling him.

His comments are very racist, homophobic and misogynistic. No wonder he so unpopular with the majority of women and young people.

Stunned by the situation we made our way further through the city as we crossed thousands of #elenão protesters making their way through the streets of Rio.

Ele Não, in English not him, is a movement against Bolsonaro led by thousands of women across Brazil. These protests were attended by people across the political spectrum.

Some stars like Dua Lipa, Madonna and Cher have spoken out their support for the movement.

We have been left stunned by the amount of young people that have joined the marches and movement. It is good to see young people fighting for their future being interested in shaping future politics. Something we will never forget.

These are the moments that makes a trip memorable….

Rio de Janeiro – The city of colour, heights and some rain!

In our last post we introduced you to Recife in the north of Brazil… now we introduce you to Rio de Janeiro!

The city is known (and visited more often) for the carnival season in February/March, however you can still feel the energy out-with!

Our visit started with a short walk to our hostel but with a unwelcome surprise. A man with some washing up liquid and a toothbrush squirted tomato ketchup on Nadines’ shoe and leg. Now this was a surprise to both of us, leaving us stunned until we both realised this was a tourist scam. We speak no Portuguese so communication was impossible… our saving grace was a taxi driver. We paid our cash, made sure we got the change and continued our short walk. Genuinely, not the greatest start and a lesson learned.

We decided to have a crack at the Christ the Redeemer Statue and the Sugarloaf Mountain in the same day – two things that are definitely on the to do list!

To get to the statue, we recommend the train leaving from Corovado Train Station which crawls up the jungle with some views along the way. This costs R$62 for the return journey and entrance to the statue


Sugarloaf mountain is accessible by two cable cars from… this costs R$99 (£20) per person. Price includes a museum and exhibitions at each stop with the chance of meeting some monkeys!

– Yep, Nadine was as terrified as me behind the camera. Do not eat in front of monkeys.

Our view at the top was in the clouds and we were blown away. You might want to pack a jumper for the top, it is breezy.

There is also the opportunity to walk amongst the rainforest, stop and eat some lunch or grab a drink at the bar.

Did you know that the top of Sugarloaf mountain is being used for rainforest conservation?

Plant species in danger of extinction are being reintroduced in special plots at the top of the Sugarloaf making it a great place for nature lovers.


Copacabana Beach has its own song and musical, however check the weather. We went for two hours at the most before the rain made us cold. The beach is well maintained and looked after, definitely a place to visit when the temperature is up and the sun is shining.

We set up camp with a bar stall. Two deck chairs cost R$10 for the whole day with table service for food and drinks.


Nightlife in Rio is something you have to experience! Our hostel was in Lapa, the central area in Rio, and just across the road was a line of bars and a busy club on the corner.

On our last night, we visited a amazing restaurant and had a wonderful meal. Susannah had salmon for the first time outside of Scotland and Nadine had some chicken with spiced rice. This was the first time since we arrived, that we had the Brazilian cocktail – Caipirinha.


Rio de Janeiro is probably a city you could visit for 4 days at the most without being stuck for things to do. A friend at our hostel gave these 5 local suggestions:

1. Museum of art “art festivals and exhibitions”

2. The big graffiti America Latina on “botanical gardens” jardin botanica

3. Christ the Redeemer statue

4. Pedra do Sol. Every Monday live samba music. Enjoy your night with samba dancing and some food from local stalls. The birth place of samba.

5. Pedra de Gambia Rio – mountain

Our Tip for Rio:

Have freshly made juices at one of the plenty fruit bars in town.

Recife

Recife was founded in 1537 during the Portuguese colonisation of Brazil. It is the capital and largest city of the state Pernambuco in the Northeast of Brazil. It is characterised by its many rivers, bridges and islands. As of that it is called the “Brazilian Venice”.

The city has three main areas:

  1. The tourist and beach areas
  2. The old town
  3. Residential
  • We recommend visiting the old town and beaches the most. The old town takes you back to colonial architecture and 18th century churches which mix with modern refurbished warehouses with restaurants, galleries and museums.
  • An unexpected trip for both of us was a short boat ride leaving in front of the art museum costing R$10 (£2) to a pier wall with sculptures. The sculptures themselves are fascinating with the varied shapes in and materials used as well as the waves against the breakers.
  • We climbed up to the top of the wall and got absolutely soaked – Susannah got drenched – but at least we got a good photo opportunity!
  • If you are up for something more adventurous than walking the colonial streets, add this to your to do list.
  • On Sundays, the old city area is mostly blocked off and pedestrians can roam freely with musicians and local stalls filling the streets.
  • There is also a number of statues celebrating the culture and historical persons. Why not try and take some photos with them all?
  • Another place to visit is the Cultural Muesum. This mostly focuses on the music and stories of people in the surrounding areas. This was voted Trip Advisors Travellers Top Destination in 2016 and costs R$10 for entry.
  • In Recife we learned a valuable lesson… research the area you are staying in.
  • All Brazilian cities have their mix of poor and richer areas with varied rates of crime and safety.
  • However…
  • We had arranged to stay with a local guy for free in his home. When we arrived, the area looked a lot like a favela and seemed unsafe. After stopping and looking up the area on Google, we discovered this was a area of high crime and that our gut feelings were correct.
  • Luckily, we booked ourselves into a wonderful hostel that supported us when we arrived.
  • For both of us, this was a stressful moment and we know now to always ask “is your area safe” before confirming a stay.
  • Quick fire questions:

  • Q: Where did we stay?
  • A: Cosmapolotian Hostel (was our review)
  • Q: Is Recifezz Safe?
  • A: Yes! Along the beaches and the old town are very safe for tourists. Be aware of entering favelas and if it doesn’t feel righ don’t go there.
  • Q: What about LGBT?
  • A: Recife has two gay nightclubs in the city. These are in the old town and are surrounded by other bars and clubs. We never felt unsafe where we were staying or in the tourist zones!
  • ~Susannah
  • ~Nadine
  • Buses… buses… and more buses.

    Buses in South America the most convenient way to travel across the continent or intercity, as the infrastructure for buses is the most developed to trains or metro. Big plus… THEY ARE SUPER CHEAP.

    Our first bus journey ran from Fortaleza – Recife and lasted 14hrs. What we didn’t release was the bus stopped at a self service restaurant before hitting the road. We had already eaten but we were so confused.. we must’ve looked like typical tourists. The journey was actually very comfortable, with reclining seats and a large head rest.

    If you choose the bus alternative go for big bus companies as they have modern and very comfortable seats.

    Our second bus journey from Recife to Rio was very similar to our first. However this ran 6hours late… be aware that your bus might not arrive on time.

    Our third bus journey from Rio to Buenos Aires was the most impressive. We managed to book 4 star seats in the downstairs private cabin. This meant we had full reclining seats, food during the journey and a clear sight line to a tv while only sharing with 4 other people.

    Once we crossed the boarder to Argentina, our buses switched and we upgraded to a new 4 star seating bus. This service had a hostess with hot food and alcoholic beverages.

    All of this came at the price of £69 ($90).

    Buses run between almost all large cities in Brazil and are main transport for long distant journeys.

    Good comparison websites are Busbud and Brazilbustravel.

    Would we recommend to travel by bus in South America. Yes!! Choose major bus companies as they are specialised for long distant journeys. You will find yourself comfortable and stunned by the beautiful countryside and views.

    Fortaleza – The Forgotten City

    Fortaleza is a coastal Portuguese colony in the north of Brazil and our first stop of our journey.The city is known for the long running beaches and piers, however there is a overwhelming sense of neglect away from the beach fronts.The beach front hosts, skyscrapers and secure apartment blocks along with some of the best street food stalls. But, behind these buildings are clusters of run down, dirty streets.Fortaleza is also known for the high crime rate caused by illegal drugs. There is definitely some areas of the city that foreigners/tourists would not feel comfortable being in.Some security advise for being in Fortaleza:

    • Only go to beaches and parks that are policed.
  • Many of the beaches at the shore front are policed regularly with miniature bases and patrols. These are also the beaches that are popular with the locals.
    • Never show your valuables in public.

    This was the tip we got from locals and Susannah had a woman tell her off for having her phone in her back pocket…

    • Secure your bag with a lock and wear to the side or on the front.
      Get a money bag/belt

    These are great for hiding your wallet, phone and any lose valuables.

    • Always have some spare change/low value notes in your pocket
  • Unfortunately, the city hosts beggars and we were warned about muggings also. Having easy access to money can help ease these situations. We always kept low value notes in our pockets or belts.
  • Even tho there are not many tourist around, locals are very nice and show patience with non Portuguese speakers.
  • One night we were out at the beach promenade we met a local woman. She gladly spoke English and was very open and honest about the politics in and around Fortaleza/ Brazil. She told us the city was forgotten by the government and rejected by the south of Brazil. She studied to become a maths and physics teacher when she was younger and lived in Rio and São Paulo. Sadly she made wrong life choices and came to Fortaleza which she can’t afford to leave now.
  • Very honest about the state of the city and government she told us stories corruption and regional racism. She was told to go back to the arsehole of Brazil (Fortaleza) when she tried to find a job down south.
  • The further inland you go in Fortaleza, the more developed it becomes. The streets are cleaner and safer with more variety of stores and restaurants.
  • As an LGBT couple, we were concerned about any homophobia that could occur. However, there was no judgement from anyone in Fortaleza and a general openness for the LGBT community.
  • Our recommendations for Fortaleza:
    • Have a long day at the beach! (Prepare yourself for the wind)
      Take a walk round the cultural centre
      Try the street stalls at night along the beaches
      Watch the sunset over the west mountains on the Espigão Da João Cordeiro!
      Visit the inland shopping malls, maybe see a movie or two?

    All in all, Fortaleza isn’t the place for your typical beach holiday but if you want to experience Brazil away from the tourist zones this should be on your to go list.~Nadine~Susannah

    Our trip to Arran, Goat Fell

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    Arran is known for its craft beer, natural aromatics and rolling landscape. For hillwalkers, it is popular for its 2,866ft tall mountain called, Goatfell. The name comes from a gaelic word ‘gaoth’ meaning mountain wind of from the norse wood ‘geita’ meaning goat mountain.

    Another more imaginative explanation exists in the folklore of Arran. To look up the story  follow this link.

    How to get there?

    If you are travelling from Glasgow, train times are linked to the ferry crossings from Ardrossan Harbour with the earliest ferry crossings at 8am. The train leaves from Glasgow Central and takes approximately one hour.

    Top Tip: Book your tickets online with Scotrail to get a joint ‘rail and sail‘ ticket, to avoid any queues. 

    Stagecoach runs a bus service to Blackwaterfoot in line with the ferry arrival times. This bus can be busy during peak travel times and return travel to Brodick from the starting/end point can be poor. We ended up walking back to Brodick along the road which doesn’t take more than 30minutes.

    A total cost of our trip was:

    • £7.80 for a return with calmat ferries
    • £2 single with Stagecoach from Brodick Bus Station
    • £13.80 open return
    • £23.60 in total per person.

    The Ferry Trip

    Caledonian McBraid run ferry services across the Scottish Isles and offer a variety of in-trip offers. My favourite is the full Traditional Scottish Breakfast onboard, a great way to start the trip.

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    Ardrossan Harbour Lighthouse
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    Scottish Breakfast

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    I also recommend going outside to the observation decks and the upstairs seating areas. A nice way to pass a one hour trip, also it can be very windy. IMG_0929

    The Walk:

    The walk is not complicated and can be completed by amateur and beginner hillwalkers and ramblers. However, the route can be steep and involves a lot of rock hopping at the top!

    The main route follows a steep path along the side of the famous Arran Brewery  and the Arran Aromatics Factory. takes you through atmospheric woods and also gives an optional path to Brodick Castle.

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    The next section takes you up to open heather and grass filled moires with steps and path ways to guide you. This section takes the longest but you are rewarded with a fast flowing stream and a small cross bridge. A perfect place to stop and take a short rest and also refill your water bottles. Arran has very safe running natural water and if you choose to fill up any water bottles make sure to pick a part of the stream that has fast flowing white water.

    The following section is possibly the most demanding. This is due to the amount of steps and stones you have to navigate. As you climb up the side of Goatfell the views of the island are simply mesmerising.

    The last 30mintues to the top are filled with yet more bollards and the path slowly disappears. Many of our fellow hillwalkers we left confused figuring out the route to the summit. My advice is to walk slightly to the side and work your way round and upwards.

    The summit of Goatfell is marked by a white ordinate survey stone with a metal engraved map of the surrounding landscape. This is were we chose to have a pre made packed lunch while trying to avoid the flys!

    The total time of the hike took 5 1/2 Hours including breaks and time to admire the views on the way.

    Goatfell has always been one of my favourite mountains to conquer and is often used by local adventure groups for events and team building. The views at the top are phenomenal and I highly recommend Goatfell for hillwalking enthusiasts and beginners alike. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have brought such a big bag.  – Susannah

    If you are a little fitter than my girlfriend, you should be able to make it up and back down in roughly 4 hours. Before going away I wanted to see some of the local treasures Scotland has to offer. The reason I asked Susannah to take me on the hike was that all locals seem to love Arran and recommend it highly. I can just do the same! – Nadine

     

    All photo credits belong to Nadine Kremer