About Megan McDonough

Megan McDonough

Megan Eileen McDonough is writer, blogger and social media specialist based in New York City. She also runs Bohemian Trails, a lifestyle blog designed for the savvy and stylish traveler. Bohemian Trails aims to feature must-see places around the world, covering everything from revamped neighborhoods and vibrant street art to innovative tech hubs and everything in between. Her cultural escapades have taken her to Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Megan is also a freelance writer and social media specialist based in New York City. She contributes to various online and print publications in the travel and fashion industries and is an international correspondent for both Jetsetter and Northstar Travel Media.

Latest Posts by Megan McDonough

An Artistic & Cultural Immersion of Quito Ecuador

November 2, 2014 by  


Earlier this month I traveled to Quito for a foodie-themed trip and while the cuisine was pretty delicious, I discovered that there is a lot more to this special city than the food on my plate. From well-preserved, colonial architecture and vibrant roses of every color of the rainbow to aboriginal dance performances and gritty street art, here are 5 alternative ways to tour Quito.

1) Architecture

Like a few other cities I’ve visited in South America, the architecture in Quito greatly varies between the Old Town and the more modern parts of the city. Not surprisingly, some of the best examples of traditional colonial architecture are found in the historic Old Town and the Calle La Ronda neighborhood (also great for buying handcrafts!) If you’re really interested in colonial architecture, make sure to pay a visit to the National Museum of Colonial Art and the Guayasamin Museum, which is dedicated to artist Oswaldo Guayasamin.

Since the historical center is one of the largest and most well-preserved historic centers in Latin America, it really does feel like you’ve traveled back in time. Plus, Quito has earned UNESCO World Heritage status, with top attractions including the monasteries of San Francisco and Santo Domingo, not to mention a series of rectangular squares open to the public. As for the houses in the Old Town, many of them showcase old Spanish or Moorish architectural styles.

Cultural Travel Guide to Quito

2) Food

I felt like I was eating throughout my entire trip to Quito and in all honesty, that’s a pretty fair estimate. In fact, I don’t think I was hungry at any point during my four day visit so you can imagine how difficult it was leaving the city and heading back on the plane. Ecuador’s geographical location plays a large role in the city’s culinary culture. Surrounded by both the Andes Mountains and the lush rainforest creates a diverse ecosystem that in turn, becomes a perfect environment to grow and raise produce.

Another interesting facet of Quito’s cuisine is the blend of traditional herbs and spices with innovative trends and techniques. In terms of restaurants, I recommend splurging on a few upscale spots like modern Zazu or the chic Plaza Grande restaurant located within the hotel and then hitting up a few of the local food markets. You’ll find everything from regular grocery items to full-on entrees of ceviche, locro and other Ecuadorian comfort foods packed with flavor. There are even little stools there where customers can have a mini meal on-the-go.

5 Cultural Ways to Tour Quito

3) Dance

One of the most enjoyable activities during my time in Quito was getting to see not one but two impromptu dance performances. The first one took place in the Old Town, near our cozy boutique hotel, La Casona de la Ronda. I believe it was a Saturday and after asking a few locals, I learned that this happens most nights…or at least, most weekend nights. The men and woman performed a set of three dances and the starlit sky and full moon served as the perfect backdrop. Plus, it gave me a chance to practice my Spanish with the performers.

On my last day, I took a day-long excursion on an old train that made several stops. When we stopped in Machachi we were greeted with a group of young girls and boys who performed for about fifteen minutes. During their last song, I was invited to join in the dance! Many times when I travel I feel like I’m merely an observer but in this very moment I felt like I was right in the heart of the action; like there was no division between local and tourist. Dancing has always been a passion of mine and I’m so happy that I had the chance to learn some new steps.

indigenous dances in Ecuador

4) Art

Quito is home to a number of renowned contemporary art galleries and there are also plenty of street art and artists to fill in the gaps. In addition to the Guayasamin Museum mentioned above, other equally impressive museums include MarsuArte and The Quito Contemporary Art Center. I recommend visiting at least one museum if you can squeeze it in because from my experience, it helps one get their bearings on a new destination while also shedding insight into the traditions that make each destination unique. In the case of Quito, I enjoyed viewing work from some of the most well-known Ecuadorian artists.

In terms of street art, there is plenty of it and on most occasions, I found murals without seeking them out. After a bit of research post-trip, I learned that the Guapulo neighborhood near Bosque Protegido Lumbini park is a prime spot for spotting new work. There are also a lot of pieces in North Quito. Just a note about Quito’s layout—the city is built mostly from north to south rather than east to west, which is largely due to the surrounding terrain. If you take a look at Quito on the map you’ll see that it’s a very thinly laid out city.

street art in Quito

5) Roses

If you’ve ever been given a dozen roses from Ecuador, you know what I’m talking about. I didn’t get a chance to visit any of the rose farms but I did stop by an impromptu rose exhibit set up in one of the main squares. I was blown away by all the colors, the rich scents and the softness of the pedals. Some artists even came in and created a Hummingbird made completely out of roses. Oh, and the prices are really good here. That’s to be expected I’m sure, especially since they are local, but I so wish they were more accessible in the US.

If you do plan on stopping by a farm while in town, Nevado Roses is a good option. They are a family-owned and operated company that has been in the industry since 1965. Besides producing some very exclusive rose varieties like the Red Intuition, the Pink Intuition and Gigi, they pay close attention to the environment and are FairTrade and Organic certified (I found that most local companies in Ecuador are very eco-friendly and conscious of the environment). Esmeralda Farms is another popular rose farm and also located close to Quito’s city center.

rose farms in Ecuador

Have you visited Quito before? If so, what was your favorite thing about it? Tell me in the comments below!

This trip was hosted by Quito Tourism and Tartan Group. All opinions are my own.

Bali & Happiness: What You Can Learn From This Breathtaking Destination

October 16, 2014 by  


My husband and I got married nearly two years ago and ultimately chose Bali as our belated honeymoon destination. It’s been awhile since I’ve taken a real vacation and we really went all out with out trip in terms of enjoying it 100%. We rented a small bungalow with an outside (but mostly covered) shower, toured the island by motorcycle and didn’t make too many plans. During our two weeks of bliss, I learned a few life lessons that I’ve taken back with me to the Big Apple.

1) The “good guy” doesn’t finish last

Every single person I met in Bali (including locals and tourists alike) was friendly, kind and generous. Sure, I didn’t sample the entire population but I think you get the drift. I love living in New York but there is something very comforting about leaving it, even for a few days, because I remember that not every culture is as obsessed by the clock as we are. This is true of many cities and probably even parts of Bali but overall, people treat each other well. It was refreshing to speak with the owner or our bungalow and with the driver taking us to Kuta for a surf class or the man renting us a motorcycle for the day. It really does pay to be nice here and that’s pretty awesome.

How to travel like a local in Bali

2) Beauty is more than skin-deep

Ok, so this is something that I already know but I included it anyway because Bali took things to a whole new level. My first few days on the island, I was completely in awe of how lush and lovely the landscapes are, from the vibrant green rice terraces to the pink and orange setting sun. After getting over the initial shock, although I never did quite get over it, I started seeing other levels of beauty. I saw the girl in Ubud who wore a flower in her hair; the young boy running to keep up with his older sister; the waitress who couldn’t seem to speak without smiling. Not everyone is rich in Bali but it doesn’t matter because they are happy and that’s one lesson worth learning.

5 Things Bali Will Teach You About Life

3) Time can stand still

Have you seen a Bali sunset? If so, you know what I’m getting at here. Unlike the majority of my other trips, I barely checked my email while in Bali. In fact, for the first time in about three years, I put up an auto-response on my personal email. I also ditched my smartphone for many excursions because I didn’t even want to be tempted to ask restaurants if they have WiFi. I truly sat back, enjoyed being in the company of my husband and our surroundings, and didn’t feel pressure about much at all. It is quite a freeing feeling I must say and even though I’ve been back home for a few weeks, I’m reminding myself daily to go with the flow and focus on the things that make me happy.

Bali sunsets

4) Tradition is a gateway to knowledge

Unlike the majority of Indonesia, Bali has a mainly Hindu population. Religious studies was always one of my favorite subjects in school but I have to admit that it’s been more than a few years since I studied the customs and traditions of this faith. In Bali, religion and culture are extremely intertwined. Everyone, from the masseuse at our bungalow to our taxi driver, prepared their offerings in the morning and displayed these in their place of work. They were also very eager and open to discuss their faith and after a few days of stifling my curiosity, I started asking questions about how their faith plays a role in their daily life. In short, it became a gateway to knowledge.

Hindu traditions in Bali

5) Nature is more powerful than you imagine

Over the past year I’ve really noticed how much I’m affected by my environment. I’ve always considered myself a big city girl, and in many ways I am, but I’d also be very happy living on a farm surrounded by cascading mountains and flowing waterfalls. Bali gave me both and that was a wonderful surprise. Whether sitting by the pool reading or meditating on the beach, I felt the power of nature more than ever before. I went beyond observing it to becoming part of it. On our last night in Bali, I stared out at the waves and knew that I was capable of reaching my goals. Part of me is afraid of losing this burst of motivation now that I’m back but so far, things are still looking up and I’m very grateful.

outdoor activities in Bali

What is the most important life lesson you’ve learned while traveling?

Southeast Asia Bliss: Serenity & Tranquility in Beautiful Bali

October 12, 2014 by  


When we were planning our wedding, we decided to have a travel registry rather than a more traditional one. At the time, we planned on going to South Africa but as the months passed and we finally got around to planning our grand adventure, it was ultimately Bali that was calling our names.

Like many travelers before me, I added Bali to my bucket list after reading and then watching the movie adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. She describes Bali so vividly and yet nothing could prepare me for my arrival on the small Indonesian island. It was even more beautiful, more pure and more majestic than the pictures I’d seen in magazines. Long story short, I was in awe of everything around me.

Without doing much research ahead of time, we booked two different bungalows in Balangan beach. We stayed at the first one (pictured) for five nights and then went literally next door to a slightly fancier bungalow. Balangan is a surfer’s paradise and although it required more driving time to basically anywhere else on the island, we loved our little hideaway. After two long flights and an equally longer layover in Qatar we fell fast asleep in our new lap of luxury.

On our first full day in Bali we took it easy and mainly hung out on the beach. Around 6pm the sun set and it was unlike anything I’d seen before. The colors in the sky almost looked fake as they snaked across the sky and they all reflected in the small pools of water during low tide. 

Instead of trying to pack everything into two weeks, we’d relax for a day and then pack a few things into the next. We repeated that process and managed to find that perfect balance between adventure and rejuvenation. Plus, $5 massages are pretty hard to beat.

Then we went to Kuta and signed up for an impromptu surf lesson. I had taken a surf lesson once before in Maui and I was surprised that it took me a few tries to get up on my board this time. The waves were a bit rougher on Kuta beach, especially in the afternoon, but once I got my groove back, I surfed until my stomach roared louder than the crashing waves. 

The rice terraces are unlike anything I’d seen before and before our trip was through, we visited three different ones. The one pictured below is the most frequently visited, as it’s just a few minutes drive from Udud. I probably took at least a hundred pictures here and the landscape gave me inspiration for a new project I’m working on. I could feel my creativity seeping out and that’s really the best gift Bali could have given.  The architecture in Bali is impressive on its own but it was also interesting to learn more about the Hindu religion and culture.

Some of our favorite memories were just sitting, talking and looking together at the ocean. Bali is effortlessly beautiful and the people are so genuine and kind that we never felt like we “needed” to do anything other than enjoy the present moment. That’s something that is often a challenge for me but for whatever reason, I didn’t have any FOMO and that in and of itself is very liberating.

Did I mention how delicious the juices are in Bali? Diego and I found ourselves ordering juices instead of beer and wine because they were THAT good. I loved waking up every morning and having my first glass of watermelon juice. Because it took us a few days to get used to the different time zone, we’d wake up around 7am each day and it was great knowing that we had the entire day in front of us.

Have you visited Bali before? If so, what was your favorite part?  

Kito Mbiango Integrates Ikebana Into His Japanese Art

September 30, 2014 by  


When it comes to artistic talent, sometimes living in New York City makes me feel like I’m a kid in a candy shop. Today’s featured artist is Kito Mbiango and while he currently lives in the Big Apple, he has traveled all around the world. His work reflects many of these travels and what draws me in the most is his clever use of color. See below for the full interview.

Kito, how did you find your way into the art world?

I never really sought out art, but art world found its way to me, for since my childhood, I spent time with my grandmother who traveled often to Japan to study her passion for ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. I also learned some techniques from my aunt Rose, a painting teacher who produced exquisitely feminine oil paintings. This exposure led me to develop a deep appreciation for beauty and gave me the freedom to explore and experiment with different tools and textures of my own. I initially took to photography but after almost 10 years as a professional photographer, turned to painting and mixed media to produce the images that previously lived only in my imagination.

visual artists in New York City

Where are you from? Has your hometown and/or travel influenced your work?

I was born in Belgium but my father is from Congo. My parents were one of the first interracial couples at a time when the US was in the throes of the civil rights movement. My mixed heritage and the bloody history of the Congo weigh heavily on my mind and drive me to create works that remind us at the most visceral level of our shared humanity.  I have vivid childhood memories of living in Congo and through my work seek to reconcile cultures by demonstrating our collective yearning for transcendence. Traveling for me is like moving through one of my works – only through my work, I can travel across the world in a dreamlike state, across cultures and through time and memory.

New York Artist Kito Mbiango

What is the inspiration behind many of your pieces?

Feminine energy is often the driving force behind my pieces – some of my female muses bear silent witness to the exploitation of natural resources, the loss of innocence and native culture but more often than not, the feminine form in  my work reflects a deep understanding of our collective consciousness, of motherhood and earth. In my mind, artists give us souvenirs we can consume, provide us glimpses of the other and in turn, show us reflections of ourselves.

Can you explain your choices in mediums and materials?

Photographs are my favourite choice of medium because of my background as a photographer. I like to think that photographs can capture a person’s soul as the philosopher Henri Bergson surmised. I like to tell stories with images and combine them with symbols that call to mind our ancestral origins. I’ve developed my own technique of transferring images on canvas, wood and other materials as this process calls to mind the techniques of tribal tattoos.

cultural travel art

What is your favorite travel quote?

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back; a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.” – Anais Nin

What is your favorite destination and why?

I love anywhere I can immerse myself in a local culture and go unnoticed – most recently I would say it’s Brazil as my experience allowed me to commune with locals in the Bohemian heights of Santa Theresa to the dizzying energy of the children dancing in the favelas.

art exhibitions in New York

What inspires you most as an artist?

Music inspires me most as an artist and I listen to and deconstruct music obsessively in my mind as I work – everything from Glen Gould’s Goldberg Variations to electronic musicians such as Nosaj Thing whose mathematical patterns make their way into some of my works…

What are your three favorite places in New York City?

A little restaurant in the West Village called “La buvette” because it reminds me of the cosy places I love in Europe, The Brooklyn museum because of its African and Egyptian collection and Central Park where the trees provide solace from the frenetic energy of the city.

travel and art in NYC


A Chat with London Urban Artist Hannah Adamaszek

September 18, 2014 by  


This is a chat with London-based artist Hannah Adamaszek. It’s been awhile since I’ve done any artist features and I hope to do many more in the near future. Hannah reached out to me on social media and I’m so glad that she did. Hannah works with a variety of mediums and her work is as bohemian as they come. See below for a full interview below.

Hannah, how did you find your way into the art world?

I’m an urban artist currently based in London, UK but have lived in Austria, Switzerland and Australia in the past. I studied art at university in the UK about 8 years ago, and fell out of love with some of the contemporary art scene, so swapped painting for travelling and skiing for about 4 years.

I first got into art and painting when I was very young. My Dad was a painter, and a huge influence on my work today. I always had a love for drawing from an early age, I remember entering competitions at primary school and it was a real passion then. Then I started studying at College, I did the foundation course which was a brilliant way for me to try as many mediums as I could.

I was drawn towards painting, photography and design. I then went on to do a degree in photography in Bournemouth, but it wasn’t really the right course for me. After that I changed to Fine Art, but soon fell out of love with painting. After studying I stopped painting for about 6 years. I think it helps to know what you want to do as a career before you start a uni course. At the time I didn’t know I wanted to be an artist. It was only after having some time away from painting that I knew it was what I wanted to be doing.

Emerging street artists in London

 Where are you from? Has your hometown and/or travel influenced your work?

I’m originally from Kent in UK, its a lovely peaceful place with plenty of green around, I was really lucky to grow up there. I got to travel shortly after leaving uni, to work the Ski seasons, and ended up living in Austria, Switzerland and Australia for a little while. Each place was unique and hold special memories for me. It was impossible to not be influenced by these places. I try and paint emotions, and my memories are part of that process. I’ve also taken colours and shapes from photos I took whilst travelling. There are so many places I still want to visit.

London Street Artist Hannah Adamaszek

What is the inspiration behind many of your pieces?

I love the outside, when I’m not painting I’m often found out running or biking in the forests. A lot of my influences come from the great outdoors, nature is the greatest artist, so I try to use shapes or patterns the I gather – whether it be feathers or animals or plants. I attempt to capture the feeling of being in my paintings, a state of mind where the beauty and timelessness of the world come into sharp focus.

Can you explain your choices in mediums and materials?

I start by doing a pencil drawing, so I can work out already what does and doesn’t work. I then make this into a stencil and get going on the background. Once I have spayed the stencil up I work into it with acrylics and spray paint, adding and deleting parts as I go along. Sometimes I make some extra stencils for more details like the eyes and some patterns in the clothes. I use charcoal too to add a bit more definition which makes a huge mess wherever I paint. I painted a few pieces on vintage tiles and furniture last year and want to do more of the same this year. Part of the fun is finding the pieces to paint on.

street artists in London

Is the girl featured in many of these paintings and drawings you or does she represent anyone with a bohemian spirit?

The emotion and spirit in the painting come from me, but the outward appearance of each girl is a mixture of different features I’ve found of different people, so its not a ‘real’ person. The great thing about art is it talks to people in different ways. I love hearing why someone has decided to buy a certain artwork, often their story is quite moving, and they have connected with the character in a way that can only mean something to them.

What is your favorite travel quote?

“There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.” – Jack Kerouac

bohemian travel style

What is your favorite destination and why?

I love anywhere with mountains, my favourite so far has been Austria. Seeing how bleak some places can be reminds me of how insignificant we are and how our own battles can be the most rewarding. Having recently seen some pictures of Mauritius, its somewhere I want to go next.

What are your three favorite places in London?

Shoreditch in London is great for some Street Art and some independent cafes, and not far or that you can get to the south downs, which has some amazing scenery to escape in. My favourite restaurant in the town I live in is the Gigglign Squid, I’m a huge fan of Thai food and the food they serve there is amazing.

GIVEAWAY: Hannah will be giving away the Aztec print on the bottom left. To enter, tweet @BohemianTrails what bohemian travel means to you. Make sure to use #BohoTrails so we can track all the entries. The winner will be announced October 1st!

revamped neighborhoods in London


Looking at the History & Architecture of Lisbon Portugal

September 8, 2014 by  



Now that we’ve covered Lisbon’s gritty yet glamorous side, let’s turn our attention to the city’s unique mix of old and new design influences. Perhaps the most visual representation of this is the range of architectural styles used on many of the city’s most noteworthy buildings. Lisbon is a rather large city and there are three main touristic areas: Parque das Nações in the north, Barrio Alto in the south and the Belém District. I’ll be covering each area in this article, starting with Barrio Alto and Chiado. Shown below is one of the neighorhood’s historic squares.

Neighborhood Guide to Lisbon

Lisbon is a city of many hills so you’ll get plenty of exercise during your stay. Besides a reliable metro, there is a tram system and a few elevators that make the steep inclines bearable. I snapped this photo while waiting for one of these elevators and there in the distance is The Castle of São Jorge. For first-time travelers, I recommend breaking your day into two parts. Maybe spend the morning in the north and after lunch head downtown for a few museum visits. Many of Lisbon’s top attractions are located in one of the three areas mentioned in this guide and if you plan it right, you can see them all.

Old and New Architectural Influences in Lisbon

Featuring Moorish architecture (my personal favorite!) this fortified citadel dates back to the medieval period. Once within the castle walls, there’s quite a lot to see and do. We opted to walk around on our own rather than taking a guided but those are offered daily. Due to the earthquake of 1755, most of the castle was destroyed but I still found it pretty easy to imagine what life might have been like hundreds of years ago. The grounds are rather spacious, so definitely plan a few hours to visit the castle in its entirety. Views from the top are unbeatable and well-worth the hike.

Lisbon castle

For upscale shops, head to Avenida da Liberdade. Built in the 19th century in the same style of the Champs-Elysees, it’s the main avenue in Lisbon. It’s about a mile in total and extends from Restauradores to Marquês de Pombal Square and is 300 feet wide. On either side of the avenue there are luxury boutiques and 5-star hotels in addition to a few outdoor bars and plenty of small gardens, trees, fountains and statues. Pictured below is the Monument to the Heroes of the Great War, constructed as a sign of respect for the 50,000 Portuguese soldiers who died during WWI.

Avenida da Liberdade

Known as Lisbon’s cultural center, Barrio Alto is just as much of a shopping mecca as it is a popular nightlife spot. Dating back to the 16th century, it almost feels like you’ve stepped back in time. Despite the hustle and bustle of city life, Barrio Alto and Chiado still have a bohemian atmosphere and if you wander past the main drag, this becomes more and more obvious. Straight ahead is an outdoor plaza with restaurants (we watched a World Cup match at one of these) and an access point to the water. There’s even a little beach area to dip your toes in the sand and surf.

Barrio Alto in Lisbon

We made it to the Belém District on our last day in town and it turned out to be quite the adventure. Having mastered our Segway skills in Indy, we decided to rent them for an hour to see all the monuments along the shore. The Monument to the Discoveries shown below was unveiled in 1960 in horn or the 500 year anniversary of Prince Henry the Navigator’s death. It celebrates the Age of Discovery that took place during the 15th and 16th centuries. From afar, the monument is extremely striking but there’s no comparison to seeing it up close. The real beauty is in the details.

Belém District

A short distance away is Belém Tower, another symbol of the Age of Discovery. Built in 1515 in the Manueline style, this fortress is pretty enough for any fairy tale. There are different sculptures depicting historical figures like St. Vincent and various discoveries on the time. Having already worked on other Portuguese fortifications in Morocco, architect Francisco de Arruda incorporated some Moorish-style watchtowers into his design. A statue of Our Lady of Safe Homecoming was included to symbolize protection for sailors. We opted not to enter the tower but it is open to the public.

Belem Tower

I wasn’t expecting to like the Parque das Nações area as much as I did. A mix of residential apartments, office buildings and outdoor public spaces, this neighborhood has emerged as Lisbon’s main innovation hub. After being chosen as the location for the 1998 World Exposition, many of these changes were implemented in the 1990s. One of the coolest aspects of this area are the cable cars that glide through the air above the Promenade.  Other highlights include the Lisbon Oceanarium, the Vasco de Gama Tower, the waterfall at the Nations’ Park and Torre São Gabriel.

architecture guide to Lisbon

What’s your favorite city for architecture? Tell me in the comments below!

My airfare and accommodations were on behalf of Visit Portugal. All opinions are my own.


Behind the Scenes in Lisbon Portugal

August 31, 2014 by  


July started off with an unexpected trip to Lisbon. My husband had been invited to speak at The Lisbon Challenge and I was fortunate enough to tag along for the weekend. Technically, I had been to Portugal before but it was very short lived. I spent a memorable day in Faro during my semester studying abroad. It was meant as a pitstop on my way to see a friend who was living in Sevilla, Spain. Well, I had a fabulous time in Portugal and after hearing stories about how beautiful Lisbon is, I’ve been dreaming about visiting it ever since.

Our high-rise hotel, Tivoli Oriente, was located in the northern part of the city, which is mostly characterized by impressive modern buildings featuring varied architectural styles. It wasn’t until later that day that I headed to the Barrio Alto area and wow, was it different! I had a field day walking on cobbled streets, exploring hidden alleyways and taking pictures at every turn. What fascinated me most was the vibrant street art that appears in pockets of the downtown neighborhoods.

I quickly learned that Lisbon is truly a city of contrasts. The graffiti-covered walls are a stark change from the historic monuments and the modern architecture seen in the north. I assumed that I would pick a side so to speak; that I would either appreciate Lisbon’s gritty side or I would applaud it’s more glamorous aspects, but the truth is that one without the other wouldn’t mean much at all.

Street Art Guide to Lisbon

For anyone specifically in Lisbon for the street art, here’s a helpful guide. I was honestly there to wander until my feet could wander no more and even though I had no set plans or even a map to keep me on track, I still stumbled upon plenty of art on my route. Unlike other cities that I’ve visited, street art is not only respected in Lisbon but it’s revered. In fact, traces of street art date back to the 1700s when formerly all-white buildings were rebuilt in bright colors due to damage from the earthquake of 1755. What a great example of rising from the ashes.

Exploring Lisbon's Gritty yet Glamorous Side

Although I’m no expert in Portuguese, I had my husband translate this phrase and it roughly comes out to “I wish I were the eyes of people who look at you with indifference.” As as listened to Diego’s translation, I looked back and forth between his eyes and the message covering the wall. I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to or even being able to look at him with anything other than love and admiration. Sure, it’s safer for us to keep our emotions at bay but then again, who wants to live a life devoid of feeling? Regardless, it’s a powerful message.

street art in Barrio Alto

In addition to Barrio Alto, there’s plenty of graffiti in Alcantara, Parque Mayer, Avenida de Liberdade and the small passage that connects Rua da Madalena and Largo São Cristovão. I didn’t have time to research famous Portuguese artists but I do know that many of their work is here in Lisbon—Vhils, Bray, Tosco, YUP, Odeith and Chure to name a few. Based on the graffiti that I saw, some of them convey deeper meanings that reflect or perhaps challenge the country’s history, culture and lifestyle while others are there simply for one’s amusement.

neighborhoods for street art in Lisbon

Beyond the passageways and corridors where street art serves as open-air galleries, the same distinctive, alternative vibe is present throughout all of Lisbon. Although I didn’t ride one of the famous trams, I found the graffiti on the outside rather charming. I’m not sure if the locals would agree with me or not but I think it adds an extra layer to complexity to Lisbon; just when one thinks he has this city figured out, it throws another curveball. Speaking of trams, Lisbon is a hilly city so definitely take advantage of public transportation.

public transportation in Lisbon

Even in Lisbon’s most picturesque spots, like the split-level viewing point at the The miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, there are gritty secrets to uncover. After taking in the view and photographing the park for nearly an hour, it wasn’t until we headed back toward the street that I spotted this lavender graffiti on one of the green wooden benches. In a way, it blended in so well that I didn’t even think of it as graffiti, but rather, just another interpretation of Lisbon’s art scene. If nothing else, it’s proof that grit and glamour can co-exist in the same space.

scenic viewpoints in Lisbon

What city is both gritty and glamorous to you? Tell me in the comments below!

My airfare and accommodations were on behalf of Visit Portugal. All opinions are my own.


Exploring the Best of the Greek Islands

August 14, 2014 by  


Ever dreamed of setting sail over the choppy ocean waves to seek adventure, and perhaps a quenching, rum based cocktail to boot? For those with piratical fantasies, or aspiring to plunder lesser known experiences from a far-flung isle, holidays to Greece are the new holidays to the Caribbean. Mark a cross on your world map and set sail for the Greek islands, where a treasury of sun, sand and superior sights awaits, just over the horizon.

The Desert Island of Anafi

With a population of fewer than 300 people, this eastern isle of the Cyclades was told to be a gift from the gods to shelter the Argonauts from a vicious storm. Despite its hot desert climate, Anafi is the perfect size to navigate on foot, and hiking is a popular activity with visitors to this arid little spot. The unspoiled landscape unfolds its 18km of natural beauty in monolithic limestone, historic charnel houses, and the ancient temple of Apollo. Be reassured, hungry and thirsty explorers can find succor in one of the traditional Greek restaurants on the island, as well as a bed for the night in a cozy B&B.

Travel Guide to the Greek Islands

Photo: Flickr/Yiannis Chatzitheodorou

The Party Island of Mykonos

Beautiful people flock to the glamorous beaches of Mykonos for the vibrant, thrumming nightlife like oiled up, narcissistic moths to a flame. Summer months are high season, when prices soar in this popular beach resort but in autumn and spring the climate, and costs, are far more favorable. Travel from nearby Piraeus or Rafina to arrive in style by catamaran, or fly direct from the mainland. Embrace the glitz of beach life for a day, then sneak away to the north of the island, where the untouched sands of Agios Sostis make for an altogether more tranquil beauty away from the commercial clamor, just perfect for the morning after the night before.

The Best Greek Island for your Travel Style

Photo: Flickr/Alfredo

The Historic Island of Kythnos

Home to one of the oldest historic settlements ever recorded, Kythnos is home to an old Mesolithic settlement dating back to 80000 BCE on its northern coastline, predating the legends that whisper around the temples and ruins of Greece’s other islands. However, the island still bears signs of habitation from other settlements, wearing the signs of Venetian and Ottoman occupation. Kythnos also has one of the largest cave systems in Greece, which has become a tourist attraction in its own right.

Tips for first-time visitors to Greece

Photo: Flickr/chris

 The Paradise Island of Kato Koufonissi

This completely uninhabited island can only be reached by boat from Pano Koufonisi, but the rewards are great for those who choose make the journey. Crystal clear waters, a single tavern and the chance to camp under the stars in its undeveloped wilderness could make it the perfect place to escape the world. Visit one of its three beaches and meditate, explore the old settlement of Panagia or hike up a gentle elevation to look across the Aegean to other islands and consider how lovely it is to be at a complete remove from the incessant demands of civilization.

It’s no myth: Greece will charm you with its history, culture, intrigue and beauty.

Best beaches in Greece

Photo: Flickr/Anne-Claude Faillétaz

This is a guest post by Samantha Vowles.

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