At home (right at the door, to make anyone jealous) we had one of those scratch maps, where we scratch the countries we've visited together. Unfortunately, I did not spend much time looking at it, or I would know that Malta doesn't allow for much scratching. But it was the possibility of visiting a new country and, I confess, adding a little more to the map that led me to look for flights to that island country in the middle of the Mediterranean.
A simple look at the map would also be enough to see that Malta is really close to Tunisia, and I would know that "cold" has a different connotation around there. Come on, I'll be honest: I knew almost nothing about Malta. My description would be: "English is spoken, it is part of Europe, it is small and beautiful (or at least they say it is)". Everything has been confirmed - English is not quite what we expected, but it does exist - but Malta is much more than that.
Today there are regular flights between Lisbon and Malta, but at the time we had two options: keeping things simple or being creative. Although I really like simplicity, this time I chose to be creative - and save a bit. No flights with the same company, a stopover in a hub of Europe and everything dealt with beforehand. We chose to check low-cost flights from Madrid, and then figure out how we'd gonna get there. Final result: two Ryanair flights, two Easyjet flights, one extra night in the Spanish capital and three full days in Malta. Done.
Next step: accommodation. And the same old question: hotel or apartment (big big fans of Airbnb here...)? And what area to choose when we want to visit an entire country in three days? The first reservations were made at hotels in the Marsaxlokk area, but the advice of those who live there moved us to Floriana (literally on the doorstep of the capital, Valletta), and we could not have been better. All buses on the island start there, and we were a five-minutes walk away from the port and the city center. The kitchen of the apartment ended up not having much use, but the choice was right.
Finally, the better part of the pre-trip came: start reading about the country and deciding what we wanted to visit. We didn't take long to realize, during our initial trips, that museums are not our thing (except for Newseum, the most perfect thing in the world, and a few more), and that a good time for us may simply mean spending two hours looking at the sea. We also know that we like to walk around cities, crossing streets and alleys. The bucket list was decided: Valletta, Mdina, and Marsaxlokk were going to be on the menu. The rest (the island of Gozo, the coast, and one more city) depended on our disposition and weather - which threatened our plans.
At the same time as I was searching hard for places of interest on an entire island, Rui designed a single mission for himself: to find out which football games were happening that weekend in November. It seems that in Malta it's a rule to have a doubleheader in each stadium and that's a very interesting thing, of course. We agreed to decide when we landed (who did I want to cheat? We knew we were going to end up in the stadium).
The day of departure (for Madrid) arrived. We then had four hours of sleep in a hotel near the airport and a flight the next morning that would allow us to enjoy all day in Malta. Of course things never go as expected and although we landed on the island shortly after 9 am on a Saturday, arrived at the apartment at 10 am and had visited a bit of Valletta before lunchtime, a storm left us stuck at home for the rest of the day and turned "three full days in Malta" in two days and a little, "if we are lucky enough for the rain to stop."
But I have to tell you: even two hours in Malta would be worth it.
Flight (roundtrip, per person): 50 euros (from Madrid, Ryanair)
Accommodation (per night, for two people): Floriana, 35 euros / Madrid, 50 euros
Excuse me for the excitement. Berlin is (excluding Lisbon) my favorite city so I can say that it is the best city in the world... and more.
My first experience with the German capital was in June 2006. At the age of 15, during the World Cup, I was flown to meet a friend of my mother who lived there and I had a week to explore the city as I wanted. I was in love - with the architecture, with the history that was palpable at every corner, with the life of the city (multiplied by a thousand with the number of fans who were there at that time). I came back and had dreams with the gates of Babylon, and when they asked me how the journey was, I replied: "That is incredible. You are ten steps from any building, but 15 minutes later you are still in the same place."
It was, therefore, natural that when we realized that the travel bug wasn't going to leave us, I suggested visiting Berlin. With the trip all planned, we landed in Schönefeld in September 2013 with four and a half days to revive memories and create new ones.
Of course, I was afraid of having too high expectations. It had been seven years since I was there, I was not in the elementary school anymore and there was no World Cup to cheer up the city (but there were elections). Fortunately, my fear was unfounded. Berlin was even better, now with no security controls nearby the Brandenburg gates, with an even more cosmopolitan vibe. And, of course, I arrived with my lesson studied.
We were going to visit the big landmarks of the city, of course. I wouldn't, by any chance, miss my beloved Ishtar Gate (Eighth Gate of Babylon) at the Pergamon, and I was obviously going to pass through the Holocaust Memorial. But now there was the time, space, and desire to find that watchtower hidden in a street near Potsdamer Platz; and the maturity to better understand what is at stake in the Topography of Terrors.
And that's what makes Berlin the best city in the world... and more. It pleases the fanatics of ancient history and those who prefer the twentieth century; it has an architecture for all tastes and shapes; it hides art in the most improbable corners; it has the best kebabs I have ever eaten... and, above all, it gives a lesson to all who are open to receive it.
Flight (round trip, per person): 144 euros (TAP)
Accommodation (per night, for two people): 47 euros
The second-actually-third trip was Rome: because there is a reason for the clichés to be, right? Unlike Paris, I had never been to the Italian capital - Rui did, and he knew what to do and what he wanted to show me.
Of course, we had not yet fully learned that we are more or less anti-museums, and we lost hours in the Vatican (in the Xpress version direct to the Sistine Chapel, but still...), but it was just one more step in our learning curve. If I had to leave you with only one piece of advice for Rome, it would be this: put on some good shoes and go stroll through Passeiggiata del Gianicolo, because you'll be rewarded with a lovely, almost deserted walk and some of the best views of the city.
As I have room for more, I'll tell you to take the opportunity to see all the nooks and crannies of the city, which is a real museum in the open, and that's what makes Rome one of my favorite cities. To do this, it is absolutely imperative that you do not set foot on any public transport, as long as you are in the center - yes, you'll walk a lot (a lot!), but it will be worth it.
Forget the map, use the Tiber as a reference when you need it and walk from piazza to piazza, and from fountain to fountain (the water is safe and brilliantly cold), as long as you have the energy. Get in the churches you want to go, go check the streets you want to see, and, if the weather is nice, sit on the floor when your feet cannot stand any longer and watch the commotion of this city where you hardly see Italians. Rome is like this: hard on the body but a balsam on the soul.
Flight (round trip, per person): 127 euros (TAP)
Accommodation (per night, for two people): 105 euros
Paris was our first trip, in January 2013 - it was not necessarily because of the cliché, but because Rui did not know it and I did not remember a thing about the city. We found a flight that we thought it was cheap (how things change!) and it happened. Many of our trips just "happen", now that I think about it - that's how I went to China, for example.
None of us had a huge fascination for the French capital, but we were both curious. With everything set to go, the first big challenge arrived: to book a hotel. At the time (snif) we were unaware of Airbnb and none of us had enough practice to find hotels like we do now. We ended up finding the Hotel Royal Aboukir, on a street not recommended but close to the center and at a reasonable price. Done (the snow eventually chased away the prostitutes who, they say, usually occupy the street - we did not see any).
All I had to do now was start to surrender to my OCD and plan everything to exhaustion. Yes, there are those people who don't like to plan, those who like to have a general idea so that they are not completely lost and me, with a million Excel sheets with everything there is to know about attractions, prices and schedules of things, maps with thousands of restaurants "saved" and a table with the places I want to visit, and how everything fits in with everything. If at the last minute we want to change anything, we just do it. But I have the option of not thinking. Don't judge.
Obviously, the must-see places were not missing: the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Sacré Coeur, were all in my plan - and I recommend them to everyone except the Eiffel Tower because ... #afraidofheights. But what is really worth it is to make a plan that has space to discover other things, such as the Memorial de La Shoah, that left us heartbroken.
Today, of course, I would make a different trip, without the Louvre and less of the "big" ones... but it was worth for the first experience (of course, now we would also know that everything is closed on Sundays and it's not a good idea to plan amazing big walks in the cold, without shops where you can warm up). We learned a lot of what we liked and didn't like, and it was the first great evidence that there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to travel: do not ask me to visit art museum after art museum, for example; but make me walk for an hour or two along the Seine.
Flight (round trip, per person): 157 euros (Air France)
Accommodation (per night, for two people): 77.5 euros
“Onde é que se foram encontrar um ao outro?” é uma pergunta que ouvimos muitas vezes. O destino, o Twitter e mais uns pormenores decidiram juntar dois apaixonados por desporto e por viagens e nasceu a equipa por detrás do atlas de bolso, Sarah e Rui.
Bastaram uns meses para percebermos que as nossas prioridades eram semelhantes e gastamos praticamente todo o nosso tempo e dinheiro a viajar e a tentar ver o máximo de desporto possível por esse mundo fora. Até agora tem corrido bem – não conseguimos ir ver um joguinho de futebol na China, mas há de haver nova oportunidade – e não nos arrependemos.
Decidimos partilhar as nossas histórias convosco para perceberem que: sim, é possível ter um emprego a tempo inteiro e aproveitar os 22 dias de férias que temos por ano para fazer várias viagens ao estrangeiro – mesmo incluindo uma ou duas mais compridas; e sim, é possível arranjar bilhetes para o primeiro jogo dos Cubs em casa depois de serem campeões, para o Real Madrid – Atlético ou para um jogo dos Patriots em casa, arranjar forma de chegar lá e ter umas excelentes férias ou mini-férias em que o desporto faz parte e é bem-vindo.
Ah, e já agora gostávamos de manter uma espécie de diário porque nunca se sabe quando chega a demência e nos vamos esquecer que encontrámos aquele café espetacular a caminho do MIT, quando já não sentíamos as mãos e o nariz, tal era o frio, e precisávamos mesmo de encontrar uma casa de banho.
Sabemos que não somos os melhores do mundo a arranjar bilhetes de avião a cinco euros que funcionem para nós e também não podemos decidir hoje que amanhã vamos estar de férias. Mas tudo isso faz parte da nossa forma de viajar – que inclui uma boa parte de obsessão e um bocadinho de improviso.
O atlas de bolso é o seguimento natural do É Desporto, onde escrevemos não apenas sobre experiências de vários eventos a que vamos mas também algumas das histórias desportivas mais interessantes.
Ah, porquê atlas de bolso? Porque este nosso atlas, com a informação que recolhemos do mundo através das nossas experiências, hoje cabe no nosso - e no vosso - bolso. Assim, a cada momento, podemos regressar aos momentos que nos fizeram felizes. Como se o mundo viajasse sempre connosco.
"Where did you find each other?" is a question we hear quite often. Fate, Twitter, and a few more details helped join two sports and travel lovers, and just like that the team behind atlas de bolso («pocket atlas»), Sarah and Rui, was born.
It took us a few months to realize that our priorities were similar and we spend almost all our time and money traveling and trying to see as much sport as possible around the world. So far it has gone well - we couldn’t get tickets to a football game in China, but there will be a new opportunity - and we do not regret it.
We decided to share our stories with you so you can realize that: yes, it is possible to have a full-time job and enjoy the 22 days of vacation we have each year to make several trips abroad - even including one or two bigger than the rest; and yes, it is possible to get tickets to the Cubs' opening game after winning the World Series, to Real Madrid - Atletico or to a Patriots’ home game, to find a way to get there and have a great holiday or mini-holiday where sports are part of it and very much welcomed.
Oh, and if possible, we would also like to keep a kind of diary because you never know when dementia comes along, making us forget that spectacular cafe on the way to MIT, when we no longer felt our hands and noses because of the cold, and we really needed to find a bathroom.
We know we are not the best in the world to get plane tickets for five euros that work for us and we cannot decide today that tomorrow we will be on our way. But all of this is part of our way of traveling - which includes a good deal of obsession and a bit of impromptu.
Oh, why «atlas de bolso»? Because this atlas, with the information we collect from the world through our experiences, is now in our - and your - pocket. So, anytime we want to, we can go back to the moments that made us happy. As if the world is always within our reach.