Porto!

I’ve been UK based for a bit but doing a few work trips from there, the most recent being a trip to Ireland and instead of coming back directly to England I escaped to Porto for a romantic weekend away with my better half.

I did go via Lisbon and after seeing a client there we took a fast train (AP) to Porto, which took 2 1/2 hours and was super nice.

We also got lucky with an Airbnb find which was usually booked, but which must have had a cancellation. Smack bang in the middle of the town with most of the major attractions short walks or uber rides away.

It was a mostly culinary weekend with some sightseeing, as both me and the boyfriend love good food, and there is plenty of that in Porto. And almost around every corner is a great view.

It’s a magical place to visit and I would highly recommend it. I’d also recommend you try eat dinner at Yuko Tavern where you can try the very traditional and amazing Franceshina dish. Tip: don’t eat lunch if you’re going to do this for dinner. You’ll need the space….

Another super thing to do is Sunday “brunch” at Champ’s de Baixa Bistro which serves an incredible brunch menu with wonderful food and a superb atmosphere. Lucky me to have had all of this pre-arranged by my guy 😀

Overall Porto is an incredibly romantic city and it’s somewhere I’ll be back, for sure. Quite conveniently I can fly our of Porto direct to London Gatwick. I’ll let the pics below tell the rest of the story.

R&R and some work, at Lake Balaton

After the Bulgaria trip I spent a few days back in Belgrade (thanks Donogh and Sneza, and Gabbi! – I parked in their driveway) and then came over to one my favourite European summer spots – Lake Balaton in Hungary.

I’ve been coming here for many years now and have a few favourite camping spots all around the lake. At some I’ve become such a regular they reserve the same plot for me, and all the other campers know not only me, but also Olli (and he gets lots of attention, not to mention treats…)

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Lake Balaton is a superb summer destination for all sorts of holidaymakers – if you have kids, it’s a perfectly safe and secure environment with the lake itself offering shallow, fresh water swimming that really is perfect for kids. If you are a birdwatcher, there’s plenty of that and if you’re a cyclist or runner – there is a fantastic cycle and run track around almost the entire 100km+ length of the Lake. There are even nudist campsites if that’s your thing, they cater for all tastes! I can really recommend a holiday at the lake. Plenty of guest houses, or most campsites also offer bungalows if you don’t come with your caravan or motorhome. And very good value for money overall! (Average night for a huge camping plot around €20 a night, in peak season.)

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I’m staying here for most of July and August, traveling around and also meeting up with Edd and family when they come to their vacation spot at the lake for August.

My postings on here for most of July and August will be relatively few and far between as I’m trying to switch off a bit, but I do want to do some reviews of the best buys I’ve done for the motorhome living. These include the 4g antennna, the electric bike + buggy and a few other camping items. Good stuff to do on a rainy day 😉

For now, I’m trying to balance around 4 – 5 hours of work with some sun time, swimming, plenty of running and catching up on some outstanding reading. It’s a great place to be doing all those things!

 

Bulgaria!

I’m way behind in my postings here…this is actually coming to you from Hungary!

After my short visit to Serbia I had to go to Bulgaria for some work related items which I won’t bore you with…it involved company registration and other legalities and I headed for Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city and one of Europe’s best spots to be in should you be doing a tech start-up. Seriously. Incredible internet connectivity (everywhere, mostly free), great international and interesting crowd, superb places to eat and hang out and generally just an amazing place.

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If you ever get the opportunity to visit, you should, without hesitation. English is widely spoken and things were generally really good value for money. For instance the hotel (yes, there was no campsite or motorhome parking – major business opportunity here!) was €40 a night, and it was a decent, 4 star hotel. (With exceptional service!). They allowed me to park Raquaza in their (open) parking area but made sure it’s within their security camera views. I had to stay an extra evening but the hotel was sold out, and they had no problem with letting me sleep in the motorhome, in their car park, which was really nice of them.

They still use a local currency, the leva, but it’s pegged to the Euro at a fixed rate and most places accept Euro’s.

As mentioned I had to do a few company related things here, and one involved a contract where my name had to be put in the Cyrillic form. Here it is:

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That reads Riaan Johan van Schoor. I really like the thing on the U of the Johan part!

Whilst in Plovdiv I made use of the Bizlabs co-working space, where you can rent a desk for the day, week or month at exceptionally good rates. Shout-out to them for being super hosts and offering a great working environment. I can recommend them highly!

Driving there and back was a breeze, good highway and no major delays at the borders, which I believe was lucky as clearly it can get very busy there.

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Yep, an interesting crowd…this was at the very hip Fargo bar. Awesome place.

After this short visit I headed back to Belgrade for some work with the team there, and then I made my way to Hungary, where I’m now, and will stay for at least 2 months. I’ll post about that in the next update.

A link to a photo album with more photos of Plovdiv can be found here.

Pieve di Soligo, Italy

Pieve di Soligo is near Treviso, in the upper North-East corner of Italy. It’s where my friend Andrea lives and I went to visit him on the trip to Bulgaria. Wow! I’ve been before but I forgot how amazing this region is. It reminds me terribly of Stellenbosch in South Africa, since it’s also a mostly wine region, with plenty of smaller winemakers who welcome you to their farms with open arms and a chilled glass of Prosseco at the ready.

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The Prosseco this region produces is legendary, and you can buy some from as little as €3.50 a bottle (if you know where to go and what to ask for!). Most of the times you also get to meet the actual wine maker, which is pretty cool.

This guy has an “honesty” snack bar stocked with good ham, cheese etc and people come from all over Italy to eat there. He also has wine vending machines, right there in the vineyard, with plastic chairs and table strewn about so you can help yourself. Pretty amazing!

We also got to eat at some legendary places like Ciao Bei, where the (very rich, but very prudent) owner is there, serving clients himself and excusing himself to “go wash the dishes”. His food was unreal, and he insisted I took a bottle of his home-made Grappa home with me.

The food overall was absolutely amazing. In most cases very simply prepared and offered, but with incredible taste and exceptionally well priced! Most meals were under €20 a head including the every present jug of Prosseco.

I also had the opportunity to have Rayquaza undergo some extra attention at a legendary local mechanic, Lorenzon Carlo, who did the most amazing job with the camper’s suspension and a few other pieces. She drives like new! He’s now my offical mechanic for the yearly services. I also stocked up on a few other Fiamma bits and pieces and of course, a few cases of Prosseco!

If you ever get to visit this part of Italy, make sure you stop over at Pieve di Soligo and spend a few days. There are plenty of small boutique hotels and B&B’s, and you will not regret it!

Full link to the photo album here.