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Monthly Archives: January 2017

7 Porto’s Coolest Bars to Drink

Miradouro Ignez

If you were to pick a place in Porto to kick back with a beer and sigh ‘ahhh, this is the life’, Miradouro Ignez would be it. Tucked behind the Jardim do Palácio de Cristal on a deck overlooking Porto’s red-tiled rooftops, this casual bar lets you turn your chair towards the sunlit city as the day’s final rays beam down the Douro River.

Capela Incomum

Venture off the bustling Cedofeita shopping strip down a cobbled backstreet to find a 19th-century chapel converted into the trendy Capela Incomum wine bar. On the ground floor, small tables surround an engraved wooden altar set against blush pink walls, while a cosy upstairs area features additional seating. Pair one of the 70-odd wines on offer with a platter of Portuguese cheeses and cured meats.

BOP

True to its name, BOP is the place to bop along to your favourite tunes while enjoying a wine, single-origin pour-over coffee or BOP’s own tap beer. The bar is lined with a collection of more than 2500 records and patrons are invited to spin a vinyl on one of the communal record players with a set of headphones. The intimate space tends to attract a laidback crowd of laptop-wielding hipsters by day and small groups by night. Select a burger or bagel from the bar menu if you get the munchies.

360º Terrace Lounge

On a technicality, Espaço Porto Cruz’s 360º Terrace Lounge is in Porto’s neighbouring city of Gaia, but the short walk over the Dom Luís I bridge is hands-down worth it for the view. Upon entering the modern tiled building (which glows a funky blue at night), zip up the elevator to the rooftop and admire Porto’s stacked cityscape of red, orange and yellow from the comfort of an outdoor lounge. As a bar attached to one of Portugal’s famous port wine cellars, the drinks menu is laden with port cocktails, and a bar menu is offered during the summer months.

Armazém

Colourful chairs stuck to the exterior of this old wine storage warehouse make Armazém easy to pinpoint. From the road, a concrete ramp leads into a huge space decked out with all manner of vintage products, such as ceramics, jewellery, glassware and furniture. The jumbled collection is kooky and fun, and wraps around a cosy bar where you can sip a warming tawny on a chilly day. Then, when the weather heats up you can enjoy wine and tapas on the relaxing outdoor terrace.

Catraio

While Portugal may not immediately spring to mind when you think of craft beer, the country’s artisan beer movement is gaining momentum and Catraio jumped on the trend in 2015 as the city’s first dedicated craft beer bar. The space, which includes a mix of alfresco tables and indoor seating, has more than 100 varieties on offer including a rotating selection of tap beers. Catraio primarily supports domestic producers but also serves a range of international brews.

Bonaparte Downtown

The walls of this dark and quirky pub are adorned with paraphernalia including worn briefcases and old machinery parts, while dolls locked in birdcages hang from the high ceiling. Big groups can convene in the smoky haze of Bonaparte Downtown’s spacious rear section, while smaller groups can enjoy pints of Guinness from studded leather booth seats near the entrance.

Best Cocktail Bars in San Juan’s

El Batey, for dive bar vibes

Chandeliers made of old business cards, walls filled with graffiti and cryptic messages (some from the 1970s and 80s) and a vintage record player featuring the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Draco Rosa albums – these are all part of the delicious mashup that is El Batey, a dive bar found on Cristo Street. The place is tattered, scribbled on, and bewitchingly dark in the best possible way; as soon as you cross the dilapidated door of El Batey, you get into their groove, and everyone else here seems to be under the same spell – soulfully jamming to the vintage music, sharing deep thoughts with the bartender and writing stories on the walls. The bartenders are good at crafting the classics (like homemade mojitos), but when left to their own devices they improvise based on a patron’s mood, coming up with adventurous concoctions.

Oveja Negra, for turn-of-the-century charm

Oveja Negra, meaning ‘black sheep’, was created as a nod to the speakeasy, Prohibition style of the 1920s. The bar is known mostly by word of mouth, as the owner refuses to promote it anywhere and asks for a password to get in. Follow them on Instagram to get the password and then head to Bartola restaurant in Miramar. Once inside, look for a liquor shelf by the restrooms and knock as if it were a door. The shelf will open to let you inside Oveja Negra, with its burgundy wallpaper, early 20th century furniture and mixologists clad in film noir fashions and attitudes. You can stick to what’s on the menu – like the ‘Malas Palabras’, the ‘Something Sexy’, or the ‘Nutcracker’ – or ask for a drink to be invented just for you right on the spot by one of their award-winning mixologists.

La Factoria, for bar-hopping in one place

The suspender-wearing bartenders and the decaying glamour of the decor will help you identify this bar on San Sebastian street. An intriguing red bulb by the bar table goes on after 6pm, signaling the opening of three additional bars hidden behind a crooked door next to the restroom. Layers upon layers of peeling paint from decades past help set the mood, as well as the penciled name of the previous bar – the beloved Hijos de Borinquen – that peeks through the plasterwork. La Factoria is famous for their ‘Lavender Mule’ (vodka, ginger beer, and a homemade lavender infusion), but the ‘Ginger Spritzer’ (vodka, German Riesling, Cava and ginger) and the ‘Spiced Old Fashioned’ (aged rum, homemade dried herbs syrup, and bitters) will take your tastebuds on a wild ride.

Bar La Unidad, for relaxed glamour and Sinatra tunes

Following the same thread of Prohibition-era bars, this atmospheric speakeasy establishment lies hidden beside a restaurant named Soda on Cuevillas street. A minimalist symbol (three interlocking circles) is displayed on the door and is the only reference to the bar. The brainchild of restaurateur Mundi Morin, La Unidad resembles the lobby of an old hotel with over-sized vintage couches, moody decor and lighting, and Sinatra tunes enveloping it all. The same philosophy about cocktail improvisation holds true here – ask your bartender for something tailored to your taste or try one of their famous concoctions, like the ‘Cortadito’, their version of an ‘Old Fashioned’ made with hand crafted bourbon, espresso, and chocolate bitters and shavings.

La Coctelera, for a chic escape into the gastrobar world

Because it’s disguised as a run-down venue from the outside, it’s hard to believe the pristine interior of La Coctelera. With a clean industrial look and well dressed mixologists (the uniform consists of suspenders, a bowtie, and a beret), it’s obvious this is not your average cocktail bar. They call themselves a gastrobar, and serve high-end food and inventive drinks like the ‘Reina de Carnaval’, a mix of rum, lime, pineapple and a touch of ginger, and the ‘Tesla’, made from vodka, limoncello, tonic, and Jenever, served inside a light bulb.

El Bar Bero, for a drink and maybe a haircut

Need a drink and a haircut? El Bar Bero can give you both. This is a barbershop during the day and a high-end cocktail bar at night. Hair is a theme here: the perennial mustache symbol serves as decoration and barbershop chairs serve as bar stools. Three different Carlos’ run the place and they are all chatty and welcoming. The ‘Tiki Man’, ‘La Vieja del Barbero’ and their homemade ginger beer – all served in vintage flasks – are worth a sip.

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Oda Cultural Restaurant and Cafe

Inside the Oromo Cultural Center is the Oda Restaurant and Cafe, which you might recognise from Anthony Bourdain’s Ethiopia visit onNo Reservations. The Oromo are one of the largest ethnic groups in eastern Africa, and the Center’s restaurant showcases the best of Oromo culture. The hall is furnished with pinewood-carved furniture and curtains made of traditional fabric. Injera made of tikur teff (a black grain about the size of a poppy seed considered to be more nutritious than the more refined white teff), spiced butter and beso (roasted and ground barley) are at the heart of Oromo cuisine. Chumbo is prepared with black teff baked thick and yoghurt, cheese, and spiced butter spilled on top so that it looks like cake. Buna qalaa (roasted coffee dipped in butter) is a cultural snack that gives coffee deeper flavours. The Oromo Cultural Center is near the National Stadium.

Puagmea African Restaurant

Addis Ababa is the diplomatic capital of the Africa, so every country on the landmass is represented here. To sample cuisine from all over the continent without travelling too far, head to Puagmea African Restaurant. Located near the Bole International Airport behind the DHGeda Tower, Puagmea is decked out with paintings, traditional chairs and the coffee ceremony décor typical to Ethiopia. Among the dishes on the menu are ugali (a staple of the Great Lakes region made of millet, corn or sorghum boiled into a sticky porridge) and nyama choma (a Kenyan dish of grilled bone-in lamb, chicken or Nile perch fish). Live music is also on the table with DJs on Thursday nights and jazz on Saturday evenings.

Chane’s Restaurant

In the heart of the Cazanches district near a stack of popular chain hotels, delicious Ethiopian fare is served up in a centuries-old house once owned by a military hero. The house preserves the 19th-century way of life with old artworks and black-and-white photographs of royals and foreign dignitaries. From the kitchen drifts the aroma of traditional Ethiopian dishes from the recipe book of the famous chef Chanyalew Mekonen (aka Chane), who used to cook at the German Embassy and for the Emperor of Ethiopia before starting this restaurant. Chane died in January 2017, but fortunately he left his legacy and the art of cooking to his son and wife. The restaurant serves a limited selection of dishes, many of which Chane invented.

Don’t leave without trying Ethiopia’s favourite dish, the doro wat (a spicy chicken stew that can be tempered with injera and mild goat cheese). On Wednesdays and Fridays, traditional fasting days when no animal products should be eaten, shiro wat (a mild nutty-tasting stew made from chickpea flour) is served instead. Although shiro is a common and easily made dish, Chane’s shiro is widely regarded as the best in town.

Yod Abyssinia

Yod Abyssinia highlights all of the cultures and cuisines that Ethiopia has to offer. A lot of effort has been put in to make the place look as authentic as possible. The spacious main hall is designed to resemble a typical hut and is full of eye-catching materials, from traditional hand-woven curtains to serving dishes made of woven grass. Diners sit at the traditional tables and chairs, wide, short wooden tables surrounded by three-legged stools. Yod Abyssinia serves nearly all of the dishes from the country’s many ethnicities, and the food is presented by culturally dressed staff. During the day, the mood is calm and relaxed, but at night, the meal is accompanied by a traditional music and dance performance. Pack your dancing shoes because guests are encouraged to join in. You’ll find Yod Abyssinia behind the Millennium Hall in Bole, near the airport.

Brundo Butchery

Ethiopia is home to people of diverse ethnicities, and the mix of their tastes and cultures has produced some amazing cuisine. Raw meat is one of most the highly regarded Ethiopian dishes, and it’s usually reserved for special occasions. Even if you’re not celebrating, you can try one of Brundo’s many popular meat dishes, such as kurt (raw meat taken from the choicest parts of an ox) and tibs (cooked beef tips).

However, the restaurant is best known for its kitfo, which is made from the softest and reddest parts of the meat, which is ground and mixed with spiced butter and mitmita (a spice made of ground birds eye chilli pepper, salt, cardamom seeds and cloves). If you don’t like the taste of the raw meat, ask for a heated kitfo, called kitfo leb leb, which looks like highly seasoned minced beef. Tej, a traditional Ethiopian alcohol made from fermented honey, is the perfect accompaniment to such a meal and is also served here.

Family Adventure in The Wintry Canadian Rockies

The best downhill skiing in the Canadian Rockies

Many Canadians start skiing as soon as they can walk. As a result, the Rocky Mountain area has plenty of facilities for children on its slopes. For a full-on downhill experience, the local national parks (Banff and Jasper) are particularly well-endowed offering four major ski resorts with several others perched temptingly on the periphery.

Top of the pile in more ways than one is Banff’s Sunshine Villagewedged high up on the Continental Divide and famed for its heavy snowfalls and ski-in hotel. Next comes diminutive Mt Norquay, an under-the-radar day-use area located just outside Banff town.

However, the prize for the most family-friendly ski resort in the Rockies has to go to Lake Louise. Named for the robin-egg blue lake that enamours hikers and honeymooners in the summer, Lake Louise is the second-largest ski area in Canada (after Whistler) and offers an impressive web of 145 varied runs including lots of beginner terrain. Adding to its kudos are a tube park, bags of ski schools, guided wildlife tours (on snowshoes), and the finest snow-encrusted mountain views you could ever wish to see.

Cross-country skiing in Canmore and beyond

People with kids often dismiss cross-country skiing as too difficult, the lofty preserve of ridiculously fit Norwegian Olympians with hearts the size of elephants. But, while it might not have the rollercoaster appeal of downhill, cross-country skiing has a long Canadian heritage and it’s the only effective way to explore the Rockies’ rugged trails in winter.

A good initiation to the sport’s energy-efficient push-and-glide technique is the Canmore Nordic Centre. Nestled in the crock of the mountains to the west of town, this huge trail centre was originally developed for the 1988 Winter Olympics. In summer it’s one of the most comprehensive mountain-bike parks in western Canada, with over 65km of trails. In winter, many of the trails are specially groomed for cross-country. With its well-mapped network of terrain graded for different skill levels and anchored by a warm clubhouse that plies refreshments and offers equipment rental and lessons, this is one of the safest, family-friendly ski resources in Canada. The national Olympic team regularly use it for training.

Skating

Skating is a national obsession in Canada and one of the most sociable ways for families to keep warm. Forget traditional rinks. Indoor skating is considered anathema in the Rocky Mountains, where ponds and lakes etched against a backdrop of heavenly scenery regularly freeze over for months at a time. You’ll never want to skate inside again once you’ve experienced the beauty of the world’s most spectacular ice rink, aka Lake Louise, framed by an amphitheatre of glacier-covered mountains.

Further north in Jasper, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge sweeps a large floodlit area for skating on Lac Beauvert, as well as another Zamboni-cleared oval on nearby Mildred Lake. Enterprising locals set up benches for sunny relaxation, while spontaneous hockey games erupt and free hot chocolate reinvigorates shivering youngsters.

Fat-biking

Fat-bikes are sturdy off-road bicycles with over-sized, low-pressure tires that are ideal for riding through snow. They’re perfect for Jasper National Park, Banff’s wilder, steelier northern neighbour. Jasper is revered by insiders for its extensive network of multipurpose trails. In contrast to stricter US parks, cyclists experience few limitations here and, over the years, the park has developed some of the most varied and technically challenging bike rides in North America. These trails have recently experienced a winter renaissance thanks to the relatively new sport of fat-biking. Jasper has plenty of fat-bike options from easy ambles through the Athabasca Valley to bracing workouts that will stretch, challenge and entertain teenagers and young adults. Numerous local operators rent bikes.

Ice walks

In winter, many of the Rockies’ iconic waterfalls freeze solid. Equipped with rappels and ice axes, fearless climbers can be seen tackling the slippery behemoths with breath-taking agility. Those with more modest ambitions (and who may have kids to entertain) can study the trippy ice formations, including ice caves, on a guided ice walk while observing the climbers vicariously. Wildlife sightings, an oft-forgotten winter attraction in the Rockies, will keep children happy along the way. Excursions to Banff’s Grotto Canyon and Jasper’s Maligne Canyon are organized by local tour operators. Warm boots and cleats are provided.

Hit the hot springs

Up here, the ultimate post-adventure winter indulgence is a hot bath, preferably taken in a steaming outdoor pool where you can still feel part of your frosty surroundings. The Canadian Rockies has three hot springs, two of which remain open during the winter. First is the family pool at Banff Upper Hot Springs, which sits at the base of the Sulphur Mountain and looks out at the giant geology lesson that is Mt Rundle. Quieter and less famous is Radium Hot Springs in BC, where, unlike Banff, the pools are odourless. Radium’s westerly location also provides a good excuse to explore the snowy wilderness of Kootenay National Park.

A base to stay

The quintessential base for most Rocky Mountain adventures is the town of Banff, the hub of Canada’s oldest and most popular national park. Banff’s appeal is legendary. It’s close to a ton of snowy activities including three major ski areas; there’s a wide variety of shops and restaurants; plus there are plenty of travel agencies and rental shops splayed around town to sort you out with gear, guides and gizmos.

Banff’s popularity means it’s relatively expensive, gets booked up months in advance, and is not everybody’s idea of an away-from-it-all Canadian wilderness experience. Purists in search of more tranquillity can head north to Jasper, which gets less than half the visitors of Banff. Jasper offers guards plenty of affordable hotels and B&Bs and – for ultimate adventurers – keeps one of its campgrounds open year-round. If budget is a major consideration, it’s also worth looking at accommodation further south in the sports-mad town of Canmore, which has good deals for families in apartments and apart-hotels.