Rio by night: Favela Funk

If you’re ever in Rio, I definitely recommend going to the Favela Funk Party.

It takes place every Sunday night, in a nightclub called Castelo das Pedras. It’s located in Jacarepaguá, a suburb home to a mix of affluent neighbourhoods and some of the biggest slums in Rio.

It’s the best place to go to experience local music and dancing. Most hostels arrange trips to the party, and you go in convoy on mini buses.

The nightclub consists of two floors; the first floor is a huge dance floor with a stage at the front and the second floor is home to the bar, toilets and a balcony area. As soon as you enter the club, your eardrums will be hit with the rhythmic drums of the Funk Carioca – a type of Brazilian dance music that originated in the favelas.

The dance floor is a sea of bodies. At the start of the night it is mostly locals dancing, but, as the night goes on, tourists get braver (and more drunk) and soon infiltrate the crowd. Flushed faces and wiggling, shaking bodies. You can feel the heat radiating off of the lights and neighbouring dancers.

The Brazilian girls are fascinating to watch; moving with purpose and confidence. They are fierce, vigorous, inspiring, and certainly the best twerkers I’ve ever seen!

By the end of the night, you’ll be dishevelled, exhausted and giddy. And hungry after dancing like a lunatic! There’s plenty of accommodating food stalls, selling piping hot chicken sticks… the Brazilian equivalent of a kebab.

Happy twerking! 😉

x Morts x

[Photo credit: Chris Westgarth – http://oddsockodd.blogspot.co.uk/%5D

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Spanish Fashion: Oliva Market

My boyfriend, Jonny, and I recently spent a long weekend in Spain. We were visiting friends that moved there last October.

They live in a gorgeous, remote area of the Valencian Community. By train, it is just over an hour from Valencia itself.

The nearest town (with a train station) is Gandia which is a 15 minute drive from their villa. The villa sits high on the mountainside and can only be reached  by an incredibly steep, winding road. The views are breath-taking as you climb higher and higher up the mountain.

The nearest town (without a train station) is Oliva, a traditional Valencian town that is still being developed and brought into the 21st century.

It is here I experienced my first Spanish market.

I thought it was Italy that was famous for its beautiful leather shoes, but I was amazed by the style and variety in Spain. And by the price!

There were rows and rows of pretty flip flops, sandals and wedges. What I loved most is how unique each pair was… so different from anything I’ve seen in the shops back home. Once I tried some on, I realised how comfy they were too. Lovely padded soles and real leather… for only €15 per pair!

My friend Jane and I spent ages trying on different sandals and I couldn’t resist buying two pairs. To be honest… I would have bought so much more if I was restricted by hand luggage!

Happily swinging our bags of shoes, we continued on, into the hustle and bustle of the market. We realised we’d only got a few stalls in as we’d been so distracted by shoes!

As well as shoes, there were stalls selling leather handbags and wallets, woven beach bags, bikinis, dresses  and loose summer trousers. For most stalls, they had a little curtained off section to try clothes on. For others, we just tried the summer trousers on over what we were wearing.

When I wanted to try a top on, though, the stall owner guided me to a white van! Sliding the door behind me, I quickly got changed inside the van. When I pulled the door open again, the stall owner was holding a small mirror up for me to have a look.

What I found interesting is the Spanish women’s love of shoulder pads! The top I bought, a beautiful floral pattern, had shoulder pads sewn in. I am still undecided whether to remove them or just go with the Spanish look!

It was the quality and value for money that struck me most about this market. I wish I had had more luggage space so I could have bought more not only for me, but for my friends.

The trousers I bought were only €3 each.. such an incredible bargain!

So, if you are ever in Spain and have the opportunity to visit a local market… you absolutely should! And make sure you pack light so you have room for your purchases.

If you’re ever in Oliva, the market is on every Friday.

Happy shopping!

x Morts x

Converse Convert

So I finally bought myself a pair of converse the other day. My very first pair!

And I love them!

Who knew there were so many types to choose from though?! One Star, All Star, Classic Chuck, Chuck ‘70, Chuck II, Chuck Modern and Jack Purcell.

I didn’t have a clue what I was doing or where to start so I asked my converse-wearing friends for advice. They steered me in the direction of low-top Chuck Taylor All Stars. But still, the confusion continued as I had to choose between platform, dainty, lean and classic styles!

Looking online, I had my heart set on dainty but when I tried them on in person the classic fit was just so much comfier! They make look bigger on my feet than the dainty cut, but I think I’ll soon get used to them.

Apparently once you go classic, there’s no turning back!

I love the classic colours and the low top cut looks good with either jeans or a dress, so it’s the perfect option for summer.

I don’t think I’ll be venturing into high top territory any time soon but I’m definitely a converse convert! There’s a type and style out there for everyone.

x Morts x

A guide to: Luang Prabang

On the banks of the Mekong River sits the sleepy town of Luang Prabang. Here you’ll find sweet little guest houses, homely hostels and welcoming locals. The entire town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is home to former royal palaces and many beautiful temples.

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There are always stands selling fresh fruit smoothies during the day and delicious street food at night. The street food is some of the best I’ve ever tasted. The smell alone is enough to make your mouth water. Huge steaming bowls of noodles, rice and vegetables are laid out like a buffet. There are rows and rows of speared fish and chicken, cooked over makeshift BBQ’s, and even whole pigs heads! You can pay by the plate which allows you to try a bit of each of the local delicacies.

The night market in the centre of town is wonderful. There are stalls selling colourful paintings, traditional garments, jewellery and toys. It still remains my favourite night market, out of all the places I have visited in South East Asia. I bought some exquisite elephant-print trousers to take home with me – the most comfortable trousers I have ever worn!

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You won’t find late-night bars and restaurants in Luang Prabang. Instead, the tourist tradition is to head to the local bowling alley – a short tuk tuk ride away. This is the only place that is still serving alcohol at night and so it has become the social hub for backpackers.

There’s plenty to do and see during the day. For a proper tour of the town, rent bikes and cycle your way around. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the monks walking around the grounds of Wat Xieng Thong, or ‘Golden City Temple’. It’s a breath-taking place, especially when the sun is shining down upon it.

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Two places you definitely have to visit in Luang Prabang are:

  1. Kuang Si Falls:

This spectacular three tier waterfall may be a 45 minute tuk tuk drive away, but it certainly won’t disappoint. The most popular tourist spot in Luang Prabang, it’s not only the main cascade that people love but also the turquoise pools that it feeds. These pools have formed down the hillside and are the perfect place to go for a swim. Make sure you obey the signs though as some of the pools are sacred. It’s such a beautiful and tranquil place you won’t want to leave. There is also a bear sanctuary at the falls, run by the charity Free the Bears. Here you can see bears that have been rescued from cruel hunters.

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  1. Phu Si Hill:

In the centre of town there are steps that lead up to the top of Phu Si Hill. This is the place to go for the best sunset in Laos. The views are stunning, of the surrounding mountains and meandering rivers. From here you can see the point at which the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers meet. There are temples en route to the top, with Wat Chom Si at the highest peak.

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If I had had more time, I would have loved to see the Buddha statues in Vientiane and explore the beautiful islands of Si Phan Don (commonly know as ‘4000 islands of the Mekong’). I would recommend looking these up too if you’re heading to Laos!

x Morts x

A guide to: Vang Vieng

Out of all of the countries I have visited on my travels, Laos is definitely one of my favourite and, by far, the most relaxing. Embrace the laidback lifestyle, live on “Laos time” and leave your worries behind. The more time you spend in Laos, the more you will get used to the slow pace of life.

Nestled between mountains, Vang Vieng is a luscious and beautiful little town, an idyllic haven where you can easily lose all sense of time. It is packed with bars, all teeming with tourists. Simply take your pick and watch the sun set with a Beerlaos in hand. This local beer is light and fresh, the perfect thirst-quenching device after a day in the hot sun.

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In pretty much every bar, restaurant and hostel, you will find Family Guy or Friends being aired on TVs in the communal areas. This bizarre tradition has clearly come about due to the constant stream of tourists visiting Vang Vieng.

A favourite bar of mine was Fat Monkey’s. It’s a great little spot overlooking the river and you can always count on being involved in a game of beer-pong with other travellers. Start your night here and then head to Gary’s Irish bar, a popular, rowdy place packed with backpackers. There are plenty of other little bars en route to Gary’s so you’ll never be parched, I promise you that! Finish the night at the Full Moon bar. This is the one place that stays open late in Vang Vieng and is also the only venue with a dance floor.

As for the inevitable end-of-night-feast, there’s little food stands on the streets selling huge pork baguettes and crepes stuffed with banana and Nutella. The food costs next to nothing and the generous portions will leave you stuffed and satisfied.

There are two things you must do whilst in Vang Vieng:

  1. Tubing:

Float down the river in a convoy of rubber rings, waving to the locals and drinking beer as you take in the stunning scenery. Although the riverside bars have been shut down, due to numerous alcohol-fueled accidents, it is still a hilarious day out and you can take a few beers along for the ride instead. Beware of shallow parts of the river, where you can easily scrap your bum if you aren’t paying attention!

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  1. Cave exploring:

There are plenty of different caves to explore in Vang Vieng, including Tham Sang (Elephant Cave) and Tham Nam (Water Cave). A favourite of mine was Tham Pu Kham. It’s a popular tourist spot and for good reason. Impressive stalagmite and stalactite formations can be found inside and a beautiful Blue Lagoon at the bottom. Tham Pu Kham is set high in the limestone mountains. It’s a pretty steep climb to the top, over tree roots and boulders, so be careful if you’re wearing flip-flops! A swim in the crystal clear lagoon is the perfect way to cool off after the steep climb back down and there’s also little wooden huts on the river bank if you need to escape the sun or sit and dry off.

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Happy exploring!

x Morts x

 

French delights…

Here’s a list of 10 things you must eat whilst skiing in the French Alps!

  1. Steak Haché:

This is a skiing staple; a tasty treat after a serious morning on the slopes. It’s something in between a burger and a steak and always served with classic French fries.

  1. Tartiflette:

This is by far my favourite mountain meal. Oozing with cheesy deliciousness, it’s perfectly matched with potatoes, onions and lardons, for the ultimate comfort food. The reblochon cheese is the key to its success; a cheese that packs a punch but also brings a strong melting game!

  1. Fruit Tarts:

These are definitely hard to resist after a gorging on other delights. Fresh fruits, like strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, are generously piled onto perfectly cooked pastry. There are no soggy bottoms in sight… even Mary Berry would approve!

  1. Saucisson:

You can’t go to France without buying saucisson and cheeses from the local supermarket. It’s the perfect sandwich filler to take for a picnic on the slopes. It’s so moreish, I could eat an entire saucisson in one sitting!

  1. Salad Niçoise:

This is ideal if you’re looking for a lighter lunch option. It’s packed with flavour, from the anchovies, tuna, boiled eggs, green beans, tomatoes and French dressing.

  1. Raclette:

This is one for serious cheese fans! It’s a sharing dish consisting of huge semi-circles of cheese which are heated on one side. Everyone takes it in turn to scrape off melted cheese, onto crackers and bread. Filling and warming on a cold winter’s night!

  1. Hot Rock:

I always go out for hot rock one evening when in the alps. It’s the perfect opportunity to get stuck in and cook meat how you like it. It is literally a slab of hot stone that is placed in front of you, to cook your meat on. Most restaurants will give you a variety of meats, like beef, venison and chicken. It usually comes with a choice of French fries or potato dauphinoise.

  1. Crepes:

Grab a crepe from a street vendor as you walk around the town and you won’t be disappointed. They are super-thin pancakes, stuffed with your pick of sugar, chocolate sauce and fruit. Always topped with squirty cream of course!

  1. Pizza:

There are tonnes of pizzerias to choose from in every ski resort. And the French certainly know how to cook their pizza. Huge thin-crust pizzas come with a whole range of toppings and are a great option for a cheap dinner, especially if you’re staying in an apartment and are too tired to cook!

  1. Spaghetti Bolognese:

I know this is an Italian classic, but the French also do it justice. In fact, you’d be hard-pushed to find a restaurant in the alps that doesn’t serve spaghetti Bolognese. For me, it’s a really nostalgic dish which puts a smile on my face no matter what the weather. Best served with heaps of Parmesan.

x Morts x

Sunbed Fail

So my first sunbed experience was pretty ridiculous.

Who knew there were so many settings… and how HOT it can get in there!

I had no idea what I was doing… do you wear pants, no pants? No-one tells you this essential information.

A girl showed me to one of the cubicles, with the briefest of introductions. She pointed to the timer on the wall which was already counting down. The sunbed would start as that reached 0.

As soon as she left I rushed to get unchanged, panicked by the timer situation. It’s amazing how difficult it is to get tights off in a rush!

Finally stripped of clothes, I climbed into the sunbed; a plastic tube, like a capsule or something, with neon lights and chart music blaring out of the speakers inside. I was lying there waiting for something to happen… it seem like time had now completely stopped. I pushed up the lid a few times to peek out and check how long was left on the timer; 2 minutes, 1 minute.

There must have been only 10 seconds left when I realised I didn’t have my goggles on! These weird mini swim goggle things you’re supposed to wear to protect your eyes from the UV. So I leapt up out of the sunbed and frantically scrambled around for the goggles. I clambered back into the sunbed just in time as the UV lamp suddenly kicked into life.

There I was, lying like a beached whale in an incubator, happily listening to Justin Bieber blaring in my ears (I had no idea how to change the channel or volume).

Suddenly… out of nowhere… water sprayed directly into my face. I jumped out of my skin! Refreshing aqua mist it may be, but not relaxing when you have no idea it’s going to happen!

Once the machine shut down and the heat subsided, I shuffled off the sunbed. I was happy to have made it out in one piece.

I felt extremely hot in the face and my skin was already tingling slightly. Was this normal procedure? I looked back at the panel on the sunbed and realised there were a few different settings.

Genius that I am, I had selected the hottest one! Carabic. CARABIC for god’s sake.

I am not from the Caribbean. I’m the sort of person that burns on a cloudy day in England. So carabic was not the appropriate setting for me. Ideally, I wouldn’t even be braving Mediterranean. I should have gone for the lowest setting, to ease me in.

Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?

So for all you sunbed newbies out there… don’t worry, you can’t be more foolish than me!

Take my advice… choose the lowest setting to start with and be prepared for a mist spray halfway through!

x Morts x