Everyday Brasil: An Interview

Original article written for momondo, available here.

momondo caught up with Everyday Brasil for a chat about the work of the Instagram movement and its efforts in presenting an authentic image of a vast, diverse nation

In a country as vast and as varied as Brazil, depicting a narrative that paints an accurate portrait of everyday life can be a challenging task. Following in the footsteps of other Everyday Projects, the viral Instagram photography movement Everyday Brasil hopes to disseminate knowledge of Brazil and its social realities.

And rather than aiming specifically at a global audience, the imagery of Everyday Brasil is just as much about portraying the country to its own citizens, exemplified amongst other things by their image captions, displayed in both English and Brazilian Portuguese.

momondo interviewed Ivana Debértolis, the founder of Everyday Brasil, to gain a better understanding of the work of the movement. We’ve also made a playlist to help get you into the groove as you scroll through the imagery of Everyday Brasil.

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How did Everyday Brasil come to life?

Everyday Brasil was born in 2015, as word of other Everyday projects such as Everyday Africa and Everyday Iran got out. As a photographer myself, I quickly realised the potential of the Everyday Everywhere projects and reached out to the people behind Everyday Africa. From there, things have grown very quickly.

Read more: 

São Paulo by night is a fiery, colourful affair

What are the main objectives of Everyday Brasil?

As part of the Everyday projects, we aim to enrich others with knowledge of our country in a way that avoids presenting a stereotypical image of Brazil. We want to spread knowledge about the real Brazil and about the reality of life here, abroad but also locally. For instance, even though I was born in Brazil and live here now, there are so many things about my country that I have yet to learn.

We can all learn a lot more about our own country. As such, each photo on our feed brings us closer to the reality of life in different parts of the country.

The area of Marrocos is an illegal occupation in downtown São Paulo

What is your role in Everyday Brasil?

I’m a curator, broadly responsible for managing the Everyday Brasil project. I delegate some of this responsibility as we have almost 50 photographers and fixed collaborators scattered across the country. Our nation is large and very diverse, so even though 50 photographers may seem like a lot, it is a necessary number as we need to document our many regions and places in a natural manner.

For this reason, I often have to do a bit of research to come up with a creative and relevant caption. This is a learning process for me as I have become increasingly acquainted with Brazil. There is still so much to be learned though and more knowledge to be shared.

A fisherman and his net, Ponta do Leal, Florianópolis, Santa Catarina

How is the diversity of Brazil depicted in the image selection process?

We focus on documenting events that are of relevance in the country such as some political demonstrations, national days and so on. All images are taken by our photographers, as this is a photography project that we take seriously.

Seeing how similar events are depicted differently across the country is always interesting. We vary the location of our content – for instance, if we publish a picture from Rio de Janeiro, the next one will be from another city and state.

By the same token, we also try to alternate between photographers as much as possible. If you look at our gallery, the subjects in it are all very different.

A glimpse into the small town of Joanes in the remote northern state of Pará

What is the role of photography in a country as large and diverse as Brazil?

Photography is a way of taking in information quickly. You can look at an image and very quickly decipher the story that it is trying to tell. Photography is accessible and in this case is for everyone. In today’s’ day and age, platforms such as Instagram have made this a reality.

The northeastern state of Bahia takes to the streets to celebrate the region's independence day

We always think carefully about the role that photography can play when it comes to telling a story – the captions explaining the photos are important but we should not force them on our audience too much. In the end, it is all about people drawing their own conclusions about our images and asking themselves critical questions. Our photography is a vehicle for this process.

Revellers making merry during the carnival season, São Paulo

In your opinion, why should people travel to Brazil?

For the same reasons that I myself ought to travel as much as possible in Brazil – this is a rich and diverse country. It sometimes feels like there are several countries in one – everyday life is very different in the south than it is in the northeast for instance. The same is true of the people, our customs, food and so on – everything varies a great deal depending on where in the nation you find yourself. Brazil has problems like any other nation, but we are a proud and resolute people.

Festa Junina (The June Party ) drapes the streets of Recife in swathes of colour for a few days

What impact has Everyday Brasil had and where do you see the project heading over the next few years?

I didn’t know which direction things would go in when we first started Everyday Brasil. Today, it has evolved into a project that is respected across the country – people write to us on a daily basis, keen on participating. At the same time, our aim of depicting an accurate and diverse social reality through photography seems to have been correctly understood, which wasn’t necessarily the case when we first started out.

A farmer in the state of Pernambuco takes delight at her harvest after rainfall put an end to a prolonged drought

We are growing but there is plenty of work to be done yet! We are of course very active on Instagram, but we’d like to have a stronger online presence and across other platforms. For instance, we would like to create an exhibition of some of our pictures later this year starting in São Paulo and spreading across the country as a national project. The eventual idea is for Everyday Brasil to become a reference point for photographs of Brazil. We would like people to think of Everyday Brasil when they think about travelling here. Similarly, we want to replicate Everyday Brasil in the form of a book or a magazine. We’d like to think outside the box, outside of Instagram.

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Istanbul, Turkey – a guide to the city of two halves

Istanbul: a tale of two continents. Photo by João Marcelo Martins on Unsplash

Original article written for momondo and Atlas Global – available here.

From ancient islands, homely local restaurants and colossal religious monuments with a great heritage – here is our guide to what to see and do in the metropolis of Istanbul

* Sponsored content: This trip to Istanbul was facilitated by Atlas Global

Straddling the Bosphorus, a natural strait that divides Europe and Asia, Istanbul is a tale of two cities. On the European side of this pulsating metropolis lie some of the city’s iconic landmarks, such as the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia – prominent features that give this part of Istanbul a fair share of fame internationally.

Venture into the Asian part of Istanbul and things are more laid-back – local cafes and a smattering of micro businesses give this part of town a vintage and homely feel, when compared to the more brazen nature of its European counterpart. In our guide to this diverse, gargantuan city we explore both parts of Istanbul – touring through the more iconic sights as well as some of the lesser-known ones.Find a flight to Istanbul

What to do in the European part of Istanbul

The most iconic sights of the European part of Istanbul are located in close proximity to one another and can easily be seen over the course of a full day if you delve into detail. However, if time isn’t on your side, you can easily breeze through the main sights of the Sultanahmet area in half a day or less.

Brush up on your world history in Sultanahmet

The bold aura of the Blue Mosque - venture inside it for a glimpse of some very detailed architecture
Sultanahmet is a great place to brush up on your history. Picture by Allan Kortbæk

The Sultanahmet neighbourhood in the district of Fatih houses the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia and the opulent Topkapi Palace, all of which are linked by expansive, verdant gardens. Start at the iconic Blue Mosque (so called due to the handmade blue ceramic tiles in its interior).

200 stained glass windows and over 20,000 tiles and hundreds of square metres of soft red carpet knitted with arcane symbols such as tulips await in the lavishly-decorated interior of the mosque.

Keep an eye open for the ostrich eggs placed on the roof chandeliers – an age-old spider web repellent system that has been keeping arachnids from making the mosque their humble abode (or so they say).  As you digest the vivid impressions of the blue mosque, make your way to the only building that can rival it for miles around – Hagia Sophia, which you will find less than 10 minutes away on foot.

Hagia Sophia began as a church around AD360 at which time it was known as Magna Ecclesia (The Great Church), before being pillaged in 1453 by Ottoman forces that overthrew Constantinople (now Istanbul). The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmet II, put a stop to the looting and converted the church into a mosque, a status it retained until 1934.

While inside this rustic, ancient museum, keep a lookout for the clash of religious affiliations that have left their mark on its architecture – from desecrated crosses to pagan installations such as the wish column: a small hole that you can stick your hand into and rotate your palm 360 degrees while making a wish.

Complete your tour of the iconic behemoths of the Sultanahmet area with a trip to the Topkapi Palace, the imperial residence of the Ottoman Sultans for almost 400 years. Much of the complex remains off limits to the public but you can still venture into the Harem – a domestic space reserved for wives, concubines and female servants. If only walls could talk …

Get lost in a bazaar

Lose yourself among the trinkets and gadgetry in the Grand Bazaar
Lose yourself among the trinkets and gadgetry in the Grand Bazaar. Photo by Wei Pan on Unsplash

Stretch your legs and venture over to the Grand Bazaar, which you will find a kilometre and a half from the Topkapi Palace, still in the Fatih district. Located inside the walled city, this is one of the oldest covered markets in the world, stretching over 61 covered streets that house an excess of 4000 shops.

Trinkets galore and all manner of spices, lanterns and other goods line the alleyways here. Take a deep breath and bring your bargaining game along for a saunter through these ancient passages.

Getting lost in it all is part of the fun. Take a minute to look up and admire the elaborately decorated ceilings along the streets and alleyways. If you fancy a market that’s less complex, head to the Egyptian Bazaar in the Eminönü quarter, where a plethora of scents (albeit in a more cramped environment) await. Cross the Galata Bridge at the start of the Egyptian Bazaar and strike up a conversation with one of the many local fishermen who cast their lines into the water here.

Hang out around Taksim Square

Stretch your legs around the hilly area around Taksim Square. Photo by Drew McKechnie on Unsplash

Head across the Galata Bridge and keep on going for a couple of kilometres until you hit Taksim Square and the surrounding area, in the throbbing heart of Istanbul. You will find restaurants and cafes aplenty here, the world’s second-oldest subway line and İstiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue), a long pedestrian street that is perennially abuzz with activity.

What to do in the Asian part of Istanbul

The Asian part of Istanbul is less grandiose than its European counterpart and can be seen over the course of a relaxed day. It’s not so much the sites that define it as it is the local ambience and homely feel, accentuated in no small part by the amicable nature of the people of this part of town.

Turn back the hands of time on the Prince Islands

Of the myriad of things to do in Istanbul, a visit to the Prince Islands has to be the pick of the bunch.

The Prince Islands are a scenic archipelago in the Sea of Marmara that have preserved their ancient ways, in contrast to the rest of Istanbul. You won’t find multi-lane highways here, where the horse still reigns supreme as the sole means of transport.

Ferry departures to these peaceful parts leave from Bostancı, Kartal and Maltepe on the Asian side, and from Kabataş on the European part of the city and run all-year round. The summer months are without a doubt the best months to explore the islands.

Roam the streets of Kadıköy

Kadıköy at sunset. Photo by June O on Unsplash

The area of Kadıköy is the perfect antidote to the more widely visited sights of the European part of Istanbul. Mesmeric sea views along the waterfront and a multitude of restaurants, cafes and small markets give Kadıköy a warm, welcoming feel that is only accentuated by the inviting culture of the Istanbulites that frequent this area.

Grab a seat at one of the many establishments, order a Turkish coffee and let it all sink in. While you’re here – swing by Haydarpaşa Terminal, where services are currently suspended indefinitely, for a peek at a historic icon of the Orient. If you’re on the prowl for some local shopping, join the rest of the locals at the Marmara Balık Market, where succulent fresh fish never fails to draw its fair share of shoppers.

Sample traditional yoghurt in Kanlıca

Kanlıca is home to numerous waterside cafes that serve a creamy yoghurt topped with a generous sprinkling of castor sugar. Beyond the scrumptious dairy products, enjoy the serenity of this quiet pocket of Asian Istanbul and drop by the Kanlıca cemetery on the hill overlooking the Bosphorus for some great vistas.

Go on a boat trip on the Bosphorus

Cruise the Bosphorus by boat for some great views of Istanbul. Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

Any trip to Turkey’s economic and cultural epicentre, Istanbul, would be incomplete without a boat trip on the Bosphorus. This natural waterway at the apex of continental Europe and Asia connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara and beyond that, the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas.

You will find no shortage of options when it comes to hopping aboard the many vessels that call the strait their home. The Şehir Hatları Ferryboats serve an extensive network of routes around the city, giving you plenty of flexibility for a fare that will set you back a mere 4 TRY (less than £1). Alternatively, splash the cash on a two-hour private tour.

Admire the quaint, oddly-placed Maiden's Tower as you sail past it in the Bosphorus
Admire the quaint, oddly-placed Maiden’s Tower as you sail past it in the Bosphorus. Photo by Meriç Dağlı on Unsplash

Keep a lookout for some of the ritzy architecture on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus and admire Maiden’s Tower (also known as Leander’s Tower) if you happen to sail past the southern entrance of the strait. This remarkable little tower has a history as a lighthouse, quarantine station and most recently, a restaurant.

Where to eat in Istanbul

Krependeki İmroz – Nevizade, Taksim

Krependeki İmroz lies in the beating heart Nevizade, a street lined with great eateries
The bustling alleyway, Nevizade, Taksim. Photo by Allan Kortbæk

Krependeki İmroz is one of several cosy restaurants on the bustling alley of Nevizade in the Taksim area. Scrumptious meze and seafood await. Wash it all down with a shot (or four) of Raki, an anise flavoured aperitif, also called lion’s milk or milk of the brave. While you’re in town you will definitely want to sample a kebap or two. Hamdi Restaurant Eminönü is THE place to do so.

This traditional eatery serves no less than 17 different varieties of kebap in addition to mouth-watering meze (traditional Turkish starters). Sat atop the restaurant’s main room you can enjoy the view of the Galata Bridge and the Golden Horn (Haliç) – the estuary that joins the Bosphorus strait at the Sea of Marmara.

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* Sponsored content: This trip to Istanbul was facilitated by Atlas Global

Beirut, Lebanon: a guide to the Lebanese capital

Original article written for momondo – available here.

From Mediterranean coastlines and world-class ski resorts to unrivalled clubs, there is something for everyone in Beirut. Here is our city guide to the Lebanese capital

Contradictory at the best of times, Beirut is a city of blind corners that approach you at breakneck speed.

It is a place in which you will find a fascinating mix of religious persuasions, spanning Druze to Islam and a raft of Oriental influences crammed into one beautiful, boisterous and at times overwhelming city.

What to do in Beirut

Saunter along The Corniche

Watch the waves pound the shoreline along The Corniche. Picture by Allan Kortbæk

Beirut’s Corniche is to Lebanon what Havana’s Malecón is to Cuba. Built under the French Mandate of Syria and Lebanon, this 2.9 mile long promenade separates the crashing waves of The Mediterranean from the streets of Beirut and offers pleasant views of the summits of Mount Lebanon in the distance.

Walk, run, skate or join the old fishermen as they cast their lines into the choppy waters and keep an eye open for the endearing pigeon rocks – two natural offshore rock formations in the neighborhood of Raouché.

Believe the hip – explore Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhael

If you are looking for a bit of edge, Gemmayzeh is just the place. Gentrified but not snobbish, unpolished but accessible, Gemmayzeh is home to numerous narrow streets and historic architecture. It is also an area of Beirut that is rich in street art.

Venture further north into Gemmayzeh until you hit the frenetic Mar Mikhael hood, where the volume of bars and cafes makes it a bar-hopping mainstay. Splash a hint of color into your stay in Beirut with a visit to the famous colored steps while you’re in the area.

Relax at The Sfeir Semler Gallery

“No condition is permanent” – a work from a previous exhibition at the Sfeir Semler gallery @ Saima Mir

The Sfeir Semler Gallery focuses on contemporary art, with emphasis on conceptual and minimal art, in its bid to showcase works by pivotal Arab artists.

When the pacey streets and their clattering become overwhelming, this is an ideal location for a bit of reprieve and contemplation in the company of some iconic works.

Gain perspective at Shatila refugee camp

Visit Shatila and gain perspective on some of Lebanon's present-day challenges
Visit Shatila and gain perspective on some of Lebanon’s present-day challenges @ GAME Lebanon

While it may not appear in many a guide to Beirut, a visit to Lebanon would be incomplete without a trip to one of its refugee camps, home to thousands of Palestinians, Syrians and other Arab nationalities who have fled war and conflict in their countries of origin. This is also a facet of Beirut, in addition to the other qualities of the city.

A visit to Shatila is not entirely without its perils so if you do decide to visit, be sure to do your research and contact one of the many NGOs who work in the area so that you can plan your visit through them. Be respectful to its residents when you are in the area and ask for people’s consent before taking pictures.

Go for a walk in Horsh Beirut

Relax in the lush confines of Horsh Beirut - Beirut's largest green area
Relax in the lush confines of Horsh Beirut – Beirut’s largest green area @mayolight 

Stretch those legs at Beirut’s largest open park, Horsh Beirut, which was reopened to the public in 2015 after a lengthy hiatus following reconstruction after the Lebanese civil war. Once a lush woodland extending over many miles, Horsh Beirut has lost some of its swagger and is much smaller today but is nonetheless a relaxing spot to recharge.

A tale of 2 buildings — The Egg and The Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque

The Mohammad Al-Amin mosque. Photo by Ramy Kabalan on Unsplash

Lebanon’s civil war has left their mark in Beirut. Nowhere is this manifested better than at the remains of a multi-complex city centre project that was bombed while under construction.

At the center of these ruins lies The Egg – what would have been a spacious cinema but is now a withering concrete mass. While you won’t be able to go inside The Egg, you can still get close enough to it to appreciate the concoction of melancholy, beauty and ambiguity that it gives off.

The Egg is a favorite among locals, many of whom have campaigned for it to be a permanent fixture in Beirut’s architectural landscape. For now, it stands defiant, in the shadow of the Mohammad Al-Amin mosque, amidst an uncertain future rocked by potential reconstruction plans.

This elaborate mosque (inaugurated in 1998) decorates Beirut’s skyline with its 236 feet high blue minarets and is one of the symbols of the nation’s resurgence from its civil war in the 70s. Built in the mold of Istanbul’s Byzantine-epoch Hagia Sophia mosque, it is both imposing from the outside and elaborately decorated on the inside.

Paint Beirut red

Indulge in Beirut´s pulsating nightlife. Photo by Pim Myten on Unsplash

Boasting of an unrivaled club scene, Beirut is very liberal when it comes to its nightlife, compared to much of the Middle East.

Of the many bars and clubs on offer, B 018 – a gargantuan tomb-like space frequented by some of the biggest names in electronic music, stands out as THE place for a night out in Beirut.

Kick back and watch the sunrise as the roof of this basement behemoth folds to let the light in at dawn.

Rivaling B 018, and located in Beirut’s central district, O1NE Beirut is another of the city’s clubbing bastions worth visiting. The club is as impressive inside as it is on its iconic exterior, which is draped in colorful street art designs.

For a less fanciful night out, try some of the smaller bars and pubs around Hamra street – one of Beirut’s main avenues, that is also home to a wide range of shops and cafes by day.

Alpine slopes and seaside après-ski

Ski due West from Mzaar and you will start descending towards Beirut. Photo by Pim Myten on Unsplash

Adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers will find plenty of spoils in and around Beirut. In the months of December to early April, you can ski or snowboard down the slopes of the Mzaar Kfardebian mountain range, a mere 31 miles to the east of the city.

On a clear day, enjoy the view of Beirut and The Mediterranean yonder. Given its proximity to Beirut, you can ski in Mzaar in the morning and relax on The Corniche in the afternoon.

Where to eat in Beirut

Cafe Em Nazih

Cafe Em Nazih is part of the Saifi Urban Gardens complex, located in the heart of the Gemmayzeh district. The lush setup includes a hostel, rooftop bar, language school and even artist studios.

Feast on local dishes such as grilled halloum (halloumi), msabaha (breakfast hummus) and fried kebbeh (meat and bulgur balls) and while you’re here, be sure to try the plate of the day for a unique Lebanese culinary experience.

Falafel Freiha

Complete your Beirut experience with a well-made falafel or shawarma in spartan surroundings where focus is almost entirely on the food. Sitting in the packed confines among an erstwhile local crowd is every bit a part of the experience here.

As the name suggests, falafel is the specialty here, though you will also find basic meat sandwiches and shawarma to feast on at great prices.

The Gathering

Feast on gastronomic delights in The Gathering's vast courtyard
Feast on gastronomic delights in The Gathering’s vast courtyard @ The Gathering

Staying true to a staunch belief in organic products, The Gathering serves up a tasty mix of culinary delights, chiefly of Italian or French origin.

You’ll find ample opportunities to relax over a good glass of wine in the confines of its spacious courtyard and its centrally-placed olive tree.

Where to stay in Beirut

The Mayflower Hotel Beirut

A symbol of Beirut's golden days - relax in the cool confines of The Mayflower
A symbol of Beirut’s golden days – relax in the cool confines of The Mayflower

The Mayflower is one of Beirut’s oldest privately-owned hotels. In its heyday, it was one of the hot spots frequented by the waves of tourists who thronged to Beirut in from far and wide in the late 1950s and early 60s. Retrace the good old days here with a visit to the Duke of Wellington pub, whose decor reverberates with a longing nostalgia for the past.

Find a room at The Mayflower Hotel

Monroe Hotel

Take in the splendid views of the Mediterranean from your room at Beirut's Monroe hotel
Take in the splendid views of the Mediterranean from your room at Beirut’s Monroe hotel

Another centrally-located hotel, Beirut’s Monroe hotel features rooms with partial or full sea views overlooking the bay area and the Mediterranean beyond it. Treat yourself to a visit to the solarium or sauna while you’re here and enjoy some of the scrumptious international cuisine at the hotel’s own restaurant, The Sanderson.

Find a room at Monroe hotel

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Japan: A guide to its street markets

Original article written for momondo – available here.

Japan is a nation of contrasts and diversity, sporting everything from a rich Samurai heritage to immaculate landscapes. It is also famous for its numerous markets and shopping areas, be they kaleidoscopic arcades or traditional fish markets crammed with a plethora of Japanese culinary delights to suit all tastes.

Here is a carefully selected mix of 10 of the best street markets and shopping areas in Japan:

Street Markets are the perfect spot to immerse yourself in Japanese culture. Photo by Lan Pham on Unsplash


Nishiki Market

Fresh fish in “Kyoto’s Kitchen” Photo by Roméo A. on Unsplash

One of the marquee food markets in Japan, also known as “Kyoto’s kitchen” in the local vernacular, Nishiki Market is a long shopping street that is home to hundreds of small shops and stalls. Spanning several centuries of history, many of these stalls are family-run establishments that specialize in one particular type of food and often work closely with an adjoining shop.

Feast on pickled vegetables (tsukemono), tofu, rice crackers, yakitori chicken and other staples of Japanese cuisine at will. You will also find numerous shops selling kitchenware crafted for chefs, hobbyists and amateurs alike. All of this is a brief five minutes away from Shijo Station, on the Karasuma Subway Line.


Shinsaibashi and Dōtonbori

Take the plunge – immerse yourself in the buzzing streets of Dōtonbori. Photo by 𝗔𝗹𝗲𝘅 𝘙𝘢𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘳 on Unsplash

Osaka’s iconic shopping streets, Dōtonbori and Shinsaibashi warrant high placement on your “to do in Japan” list. Shinsaibashi-Suji is a 600-meter covered arcade packed with restaurants and cafés selling a range of local as well as imported delights.

Dōtonbori, located further down this pass, is a neon bubble of bright lights and electronic signposting, best enjoyed in the dark of night when the shimmer from the adjacent canal is, in itself, a dashing spectacle.  Revered for its numerous okonomiyaki (pancake) stalls, you will find much more than just food here – an armada of souvenirs, make-up products, bags and other items awaits you on your riverside stroll.


Heiwa Dori Shopping Street

If you find yourself on the island of Okinawa, you will definitely want to visit the Heiwa Dori shopping street. This buzzing location is lined with various specialist shops selling glassware, pottery and clothing in the popular covered arcade format.

The shopping and dining options on offer here are equally endless – you will find bare necessities such as umbrellas and gloves to trademark Okinawa shisa dogs, which make for excellent souvenirs.

Feast on fresh produce which you can buy and have cooked on the spot in some places along this street and if you are feeling adventurous, try some awamori (a revered rice whisky from Okinawa).


Nijo Market

Should you have the good fortune to travel to Hokkaido, Japan’s second-largest island, you will want to check out the Nijo Market in the city of Sapporo. Boasting over 100 years of history, the Nijo Market is one of Hokkaido’s landmark markets, raking in swarms of locals and travelers who come here in search of authentic Japanese cuisine.

Noodle shops, grocery stalls, scallop vendors and crab mongers are the order of the day in these parts. You will also find several restaurants and bars nestled in-between the many shops. While the Sapporo Nijo Market is open from 7am to 6pm, get here early if you want to sample the freshest produce and get the most variety. Keep a lookout for the narrow Noren Yokocho alleyway, where you will find an array of closely-packed restaurants offering popular Japanese cuisine, such as sea urchin and salmon eggs on rice.


Ameya Yokochō

Ameya Yokochō is a great place to interact with loud, proud vendors. If you´re persistent, you may strike a bargain. Photo by Lan Pham on Unsplash

The variety of what can be bought at Ameya Yokochō makes it a must-see site on your Tokyo itinerary. Once a thriving black market for sugar and potatoes, Ameya Yokochō is a loud, proud bustling hub of activity located in the Ueno area of north-eastern Tokyo. Here, you’ll find anything from fresh fruit and vegetables to tofu, cosmetics, jewelery and all manner of motley that oozes with a charm of its own.

The passionate price war between all the shouting vendors makes for a great spectacle – and a handsome reward for the persistent shopper. Ameya Yokochō opens at 10am through to 7pm daily, though some shops are closed on Wednesdays.

Omoide Yokochō

Yakitori heaven, Omoide Yokochō. Photo by Chris Yang on Unsplash

Omoide Yokochō  is a crammed alleyway that is home to over 60 yakitori restaurants, which roast their scrumptious wares primarily on coal burner grills. You will find this shopping area on the Western flank of Shinjiku station – come hungry as there are spoils galore to be had here.

Wash down your meal with a swig of sake (Japanese rice wine), which you will find plenty of in Omoide Yokochō. The alleyway’s charm is not in its elegance, however – brace yourself for a smoky cocktail of grill fumes and the nocturnal cacophony of vendors luring you in for a good meal. It is, however, elements such as these that give the area a revered, authentic quality which makes it an unforgettable experience.

Nakamise Dori

The Nokomise Dori is located a stone’s throw away from the Sensoji Temple (the oldest in Tokyo) and is THE place to buy souvenirs in town. Stock up on kimonos, geta (Japanese snow sandals), chopsticks, folding fans, mini-lanterns and other iconic gadgets and gizmos.

If you’re feeling peckish from all your souvenir shopping, tame your hunger with snacks such as senbei rice crackers, Manju buns and Dango dumplings, which you will find plenty of here.

A trip to Nakamise Dori is not complete without a visit to the nearby Sensoji Temple, whose placid interior provides a welcome reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the adjoining streets, and is a veritable slice of Japanese culture.

The Oedo Antique Market

Weather permitting, The Oedo Antique Market is your one-stop Japanese antique hangout in Tokyo. Held on the first and third Sunday of every month by the Yurakucho Station, The Oedo Antique Market is one of the larger street markets in Japan, replete with antique wares such as old clocks, paintings, ornaments, pottery, kimonos, and lots more.

Bagging a bargain is not the easiest task in the world though – you will find many treasures here, but they are closely guarded by a force of adept dealers who keep their prices high, so bring your A-game along for the hunt.

Tsukiji Fish Market

Fresh fish? You´ll find plenty of it at the Tsukiji Fish Market. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

If you do nothing else in Tokyo, be sure to visit the Tsukiji Fish Market.  As the name suggests, this is a veritable seafood Mecca. Sushi, sashimi, bluefin tuna and ramen are in plentitude here and, as you may imagine, it is not a site for the squeamish nor the faint-hearted.

If you are up to the challenge, however, start your day at the crack of dawn by attending one of the iconic tuna auctions (you will need to join the queue as early as 3:30am due to limited places.) Fear not, if you are not up at daybreak – Tsukiji Fish Market offers plenty during the day too.

Primed for a move to the nearby adjoining Toyosu district in 2017, where a modern facility has been built to house it, Tsukiji as we know it won’t be around for much longer – so reel in a slice of Japanese history while you still can.


Boheme Shimokitazawa by night. Photo by Charles on Unsplash

Extraordinarily popular among students and musicians,  Shimokitazawa, also known as “Shimokita” is a hefty concoction of second-hand record shops, theaters and bars.  You will also find several exceptional restaurants in this area. Given how expensive Tokyo can be, you’ll find more bang for your buck here compared to the high-street prices of other shopping districts, such as Shibuya, Shinjuku or Ginza.

Shimo-Kitazawa is at its most beautiful in the late afternoon, during the evening and on weekends, when the narrow streets of this hip suburb come alive.

Whilst you’re here, drop by Bear Pond Espresso – a coffee shop that typifies the grungy originality of the area.

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Cuba: A guide to what to see and do

Original article written for momondo, please click here.

In a time of transition, travel to Cuba is on the rise. Here are our must-visit, authentic experiences to have when visiting the Caribbean’s biggest island.

After wallowing in a trade embargo imposed by the United States for over 50 years, there are promising times ahead for Cuba, as it looks to become a part of the global trading community. While the trade embargo is still active today, there are encouraging signs that it will soon be lifted, opening a whole new world of possibilities for Cuba. Trade with other countries will be easier, triggering an increase in tourism. This impending trend is already evident in our search data, which shows a 59% increase in flight searches for Havana from 2015 to 2016. If you are thinking about visiting Cuba, consider doing so in a manner that allows you to experience the full range of its rich cultural heritage. Start by planning a sustainable trip that supports the local culture and commerce – the only risk of doing so is that you may actually experience the real marvels of the island, not just the ones in guide books. In addition to the main highlights, you might want to travel deep into rural Cuba, where unknown charms await. Keep this in mind when starting your trip in the land of guajiros (countryside Cubans).

Cuba: a concoction of colours, sights and sounds – picture by Allan Kortbæk

Where to stay in Cuba

No hotel? Are you crazy? Where will we sleep then? Fret not, Cuba offers a different kind of accommodation, one that will give you a more authentic view of the country while contributing to the local economy at the same time. Cuban guest houses are legally- authorized accommodation options run by locals.

These guest houses provide genuine doses of Cuban life and culture, giving you the chance to live like a local. Keep a lookout for the iconic blue anchor painted on the front of the guest houses, as you saunter through Cuba.

Sip rum in Havana and saunter along the Malecón

The view of El Malecón from Havana’s Hotel Nacional in the former Mafia-run district of Vedado where Lucky Luciano & co reigned supreme. Picture by Allan Kortbæk

The Argentinian songwriter, Fito Páez, famously proclaimed that Havana lures one to fall in love with it and that the rum of the city is the best in the world. What better way to ascertain the validity of these valiant claims than a visit to the iconic capital? Havana’s old town is the sort of place you can lose yourself in for days at a time. As such, aimlessly wandering its streets is a must for any traveler.

On your saunter through Havana, you will be entertained by an array of intriguing buildings of all shades, many of which are in an advanced state of decay. You will also be treated to potent Afro-Cuban rhythms that echo in back alleys and crystallize into beautiful graffiti murals. Nowhere is this magical combination epitomized better than in Callejón de Hamel (the Hamel alley).

Get ready to embrace a city that exudes the sensation of going back in time, as classic cars from the 1950s decorate a backdrop of vintage architecture. While in old town Havana, The house of Conde Lombillo is a compulsory stop. Inside it, you will find Café Bohemia, an establishment that has borne witness to the last century of Cuban history.

The cafe originally opened its doors to celebrate the memory of Ricardo Sáenz, commonly known as El Gallego, the former chief editor and assistant director of Bohemia magazine. One of its idiosyncrasies consists in naming their dishes and cocktails after well known Cuban journalists, writers and filmmakers.

A wander through Havana’s old town leaves you thirsting for the ocean and its quietude. As such, a leisurely stroll along Havana’s well known boardwalk is essential. El Malecón is Cuba’s and one of the world’s most popular boardwalks, extending over five miles populated by street musicians, artists, poets, philosophers and fishermen cast against the backdrop of the city skyline and the serene sea.

Varadero: Cuba’s take on paradise

os coches de Cuba – a yellow classic in Varadero. Picture by Allan Kortbæk

A trip to Cuba is not legit without a stop in Varadero. Soak up the warm Caribbean sun on beaches brimming with soft, fine sand and visit some of the peculiar routes Varadero has to offer. If you want to know more about Cuban history, visit some of the old mansions previously owned by colonists, many of which have been transformed into museums. Varadero is also a thrill-seeker’s paradise, replete with caves, cayas and rare virgin forests that are unique to the region. If these spoils are not enough, you can follow the footsteps of the infamous Al Capone by traipsing through some of the tourist complexes that this prohibition era kingpin once roamed.

Explore the Cuban countryside around Viñales

Viñales – classic Cuban countryside at its best. Picture by Allan Kortbæk

The rural region known as Pinar del Río, 90 minutes by car from Havana, is home to the quaint town of Viñales and a national park that carries the same name. A lush, green zone primarily populated by farmers, Viñales is virtually car-free, thanks to the popularity of the horse-drawn wagon. Tobacco and coffee plantations are the key protagonists here, providing a different if not peculiar experience for curious travelers.

The countryside in this unique part of Cuba is intricately decorated by small, colorful houses,quaint farms and haciendas (estates), that are home to a mix of young and old Cubans who you will often see sat in rocking chairs, staring blissfully into space.

Viñales is also surrounded by an eponymous natural park. Together with the settlement, the Viñales valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, characterized by its lush vegetation and its endemic mountainous formations, referred to as mogotes locally. One of these mogotes is home to one of the park’s most visited attractions – a 393-foot long painting on a rock wall, known as Mural de la Prehistoria, which depicts the history of evolution with graphic edge.

The Cays: Jutías, Levisa, Largo, Coco and Guillermo

A day trip to one of Cuba´s many Cays (Cayos) will leave you feeling refreshed. Pictured: Cayo Levisa. Picture by Allan Kortbæk

Any proper trip to Cuba requires more than one stop, however brief, at some of its breathtaking cays. Cayo Jutías is the first stop after Viñales and is revered as one of Cuba’s most beautiful beaches, replete with white sand and crystal clear waters. In fact, It is rivaled only by the spectacular beauty of Cayo Guillermo and its beach, Playa Pilar.

Cuba’s numerous cays are perfect spots for unplugging and taking a break from the world. One step closer to paradise, they are serene, nirvanic locations where one can take a dip in transparent waters and relax in veritable natural splendor. In fact, the only hassle here are the mosquitos that have also found a ticket into these otherworldly heavens.

If relaxing all day by the sea gets tedious, get your adrenaline kicks at Cayo Levisa and Cayo Coco, both of which offer diving opportunities as well as other aquatic sports. Choose from a wide range of companies specializing in equipment rentals and organized tours and get acquainted with the area’s flourishing marine wildlife.

Delve into the past at Bahía Cochinos

History lovers will find plenty of gateways to the past in Cuba. The bay area known as Bahía Cochinos (The Bay of Pigs) is one-such gateway, rich in natural beauty as it is in history. The beaches of Girón and Larga are among the least visited in Cuba and as such, carry themselves with an aura of mystique, shaded in historical events such as the famous battle of Bahía Cochinos which took place on the Girón beach in the early 1960s, at the peak of Cold War tensions.

In fact, the road to Bahía Cochinos is still lined with old posters that reference the attempt to invade the area and the Cuban revolution.

Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey

While not often visited, these two cities definitely deserve to be on your list of things to see in Cuba. Both of their old town areas are noteworthy – replete with monuments that commemorate the revolution and low buildings painted in eye-catching colors that teleport this area back in time.

Ciego de Ávila is an old and rather small town that seems frozen in time. Spend your afternoons discovering traditional restaurants, charming taverns and revolution memorabilia while music reverberates off every wall.

Camagüey on the other hand, is more modern and developed. Here, the old town has been proclaimed a World Heritage Site and is home to a plethora of restaurants – subsidized by the government – that offer delicious homemade food (such as the rice and bean dish, Moros y Cristianos).

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About Kortbæk_Travels


Welcome to Kortbæk_Travels. My name is Allan and i´ve travelled to 31 countries.

My fiancee, Mette, and I feel that it’s only fair that we give back to the world by sharing our best tips and tricks for how to travel affordably – as individuals, as a couple and most recently, as parents to our baby boy, Tristan. We believe that everyone should be able to travel the world and indulge in it’s wonders but we also believe it is important to care for our planet – by travelling or living sustainably.

On this page you will find:

  • Travel Destinations (tips and inspirational videos & Images)
  • Photos (My portfolio of photos and artwork
  • Cultural Articles (A collection of the articles I´ve written over the years, mostly within Cultural Journalism)

Who am I? 

In my “work life” – I´m an Advertising Creative at KAYAK / momondo; working in fields such as Content Production, Brand Activation and Brand Partnerships.

I´ve been an integral part of our in-house agency on some of The Internet´s most successful campaigns – such as The DNA Journey, The World Piece, The Passport Initiative, Dear mom and dad and others – many of which have been nominated for and won numerous awards globally, including Cannes Lions.

“Off work” – in addition to travelling – I love surfing, learning new languages (I speak 5,) writing and photography.

I´ve done freelance Copywriting, Journalism, Video Production, Photography and more for over 10 years – working with clients such as Tourism Boards, National Newspapers, Large-Scale Publications, Hotels and more. My work has also been featured in several exhibitions across the globe. 


We live in a world that is being challenged by the way we live and conduct ourselves. You, me and generations to come have a unique opportunity to decide our future and the impacts we have on our world. 

As such, I am passionate about creating an impact within and outside of my work commitments. As an example, I co-founded Jengo in 2015 – a Danish NGO that has since raised over $100´000 for a portfolio of projects in Tanzania, centered on renewable energy solutions and the construction of schools. You can read more about Jengo and other sustainable projects i´m involved in under the “Sustainability” tab.  

Let´s Connect! 

Drop me a line at: allanm46@gmail.com

Instagram @Kortbaek_travels 



Check out my hotel / restaurant and cafe reviews on Tripadvisor 

Featured Client Portfolio: 

Hawaii – a visual guide to Big Island and Honolulu

Hawai – land of Earth, air, water and fire. Of all the places I have visited, it stands out as one of the most spectacular. In many ways, I find it hard to believe that Hawaii is part of The United States – it seems so genuine and humble by comparison to the mainland. Here’s a video of one of my best trips yet, and a bunch of photos to boot.


Kailua Kona

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Visit Hawaii mutuk5 Allan Kortbaek Kalapana

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Visit Hawaii mutuk5 Allan Kortbaek Kilaeua

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Waipio Valley / Hawi

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Hapuna Beach

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Visit Hawaii mutuk5 Allan Kortbaek Hapuna Beach

Mauna Kea

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Visit Hawaii mutuk5 Allan Kortbaek Mauna Kea

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North Shore (Banzai Pipeline, Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach)

Banzai Pipeline

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Visit Hawaii mutuk5 Allan Kortbaek Banzai Pipeline

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Waimea Bay

Visit Hawaii mutuk5 Allan Kortbaek Waimea Bay

Visit Hawaii mutuk5 Allan Kortbaek Waimea Valley

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Sunset Beach

Visit Hawaii mutuk5 Allan Kortbaek Sunset Beach 2Visit Hawaii mutuk5 Allan Kortbaek sunset beach


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Why a Trip to The Belgian Grand Prix Should Be Your First Formula 1 Experience

Why a Trip to The Belgian Grand Prix Should Be Your First Formula 1 Experience

Original article written for Yakondi, available here.

When it comes to ticking things off one’s Bucket List, there is little that compares to the thrill of a Formula 1 Grand Prix. As a lifelong fan of Formula 1 fan, I had been looking forward to my first Grand Prix experience for a long time, having driven around the Monaco Grand Prix street circuit earlier this year. In the aftermath of this casual drive (the Monaco Grand Prix takes place on public roads,) the urge to see one of the 20 races on the calendar was stronger than ever.

I chose to experience the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa Francorchamps, as one of the races closest to Copenhagen, where I live, and faced by exorbitant accommodation prices in and around Liege, Belgium, I ended up spending 2 days in one of the best Airbnb stays I’ve been on in the border region of Eiffel, Germany.

Here are some of my tips and tricks for how to get to and experience the Belgian Grand Prix, for anyone who wants to experience a Formula 1 race – fans and newbies alike.I visited The Belgian Grand Prix with my family and we sat on The Kemmel Straight

I visited The Belgian Grand Prix with my family and we sat on The Kemmel Straight @Kortbaek_Travels

The Belgian Grand Prix in a Nutshell

The Belgian Grand Prix is one of the quintessential classics on the F1 calendar, snaking through lush forests in The Ardennes Forest for around 7 kilometres, thereby making it the longest circuit in the series.

Unlike some of the more modern circuits, Spa retains a rustic appeal that gives it an iconic, festival-esque feel. Spa is all about Pommes Frites, sausages and an overdose of Mayonnaise in changing weather conditions where the sun shines on one part of the circuit while there’s a downpour on the other. For this reason, pack your bag with essentials such as brollies, rain anoraks and wellies – it has rained at Spa at some point or other in each race for many years now.Fans galore: Spa Francorchamps is all about mingling with the fans of other racing teams

Fans galore: Spa Francorchamps is all about mingling with the fans of other racing teams @ Kortbaek_Travels

Beverages and refreshments at Spa are very pricey for what’s on offer (a small portion of Pommes Frites, for example, costs 7 Euros, while a micro-cup of coffee retails for 5.5 Euros). Packing light snacks and refreshments of your own is, therefore, a good idea, just make sure they are in plastic, not glass containers if you want to get let past security.

Spa’s proximity to The Netherlands also means that the event is visited by legions of Max Verstappen fans, clad in the orange colours of Holland or Red Bull Racing’s distinct dark blue shade. Personally, I’m a Mercedes fan and support Lewis Hamilton but there is an undeniably special feeling of sportsmanship between the fans of different teams at Spa Francorchamps.There are Dutch Formula 1 fans aplenty at The Belgian Grand Prix

There are Dutch Formula 1 fans aplenty at The Belgian Grand Prix @Kortbaek_Travels

Where to Stay & How to get there

Even if you are early, accommodation prices at Spa skyrocket around the time of the annual Formula 1 race. Everything tends to get fully booked very quickly so your best option, rather than struggling to find somewhere to stay in Liege or the surrounding area is to look in neighbouring Germany (if you’re travelling by car).

We found one of the best Airbnb stays (Charmantes Ferienhaus) I’ve had the pleasure of buying – located in Simmerath, in the middle of the lush Eifel National Park. Located a mere 43 km away in the mountains, our Airbnb stay was the perfect antidote to the roars and skids of motors at Spa. Do yourself a favour and explore the Eifel National Park area while you’re there – it is one of Germany’s undiscovered pearls!

As we drove from Denmark, a trip down the autobahn was the easiest way to get to Spa. A tip for travellers coming from Scandinavia and Northern Europe would be to avoid hitting Hamburg and the Elb Tunnel area on a Friday, which tends to be one of the peak traffic days, particularly during the summer, when roadworks slow things down even more.

For those flying – Brussels or Cologne are the closest airports to Spa and I can recommend finding tickets via the convenient and easy-to-use metasearch tool, Momondo, who are also a really cool company when it comes to pushing for a more open and tolerant world through travel. You can also use Momondo to find hotel stays and car hire.

Find a flight with Momondo

Find a hotel with Momondo

Rent a car via Momondo

Getting tickets for The Belgian Grand Prix

Starting with the basics – Formula 1 tickets can be bought directly from the official Formula 1 webpage and in the case of The Belgian Grand Prix, retail for 125 EUR for Bronze tickets valid for the whole weekend. Since I drove there by car, we also included parking tickets for all days of the Grand Prix – which, including postage of the tickets and payment charges, ended up at 174 EUR per person.  Some would argue otherwise, but I think that Bronze tickets (there are also silver and Gold available) are more than ideal when it comes to experiencing a race at Spa Francorchamps.

Where to sit at The Belgian Grand Prix

Blink and you'll miss it. A Mercedes racer streaks past The Kemmel Straight at over 300 Kph!

Blink and you’ll miss it. A Mercedes racer streaks past The Kemmel Straight at over 300 Kph! @Kortbaek_Travels

Spa Francorchamps has many different seating options for all ticket holders. As it’s a long circuit, it can take time to navigate from one area of the track to another, so have a good idea of where you would like to sit before race day.

Bronze tickets give you access to all race sessions from Friday through to Sunday so there is ample time to check out different areas of the circuit. Wherever you do sit though, I recommend that you have a  good view of one of the many giant broadcast screens so you can follow the race on the rest of the circuit.

I personally recommend sitting on the famous Kemmel Straight, just after the high-speed turns of Eau Rouge and Raidillon – two of the best corners in Formula 1, where downforce levels on the cars can be up to five times their weight (Eau Rouge.) The Kemmel Straight is one of the main overtaking opportunities at The Belgian Grand Prix, where speeds of up to 340 kph are clocked, with the drivers on full throttle for 20 seconds, so expect action on this part of the circuit.

Other good spots to sit at for Bronze ticket holders include the grassy hill at Pouhon and the Bus Stop chicane, which feeds into the pit lane entry.One of the Renaults' whizzes by on The Kemmel Straight

One of the Renaults’ whizzes by on The Kemmel Straight @Kortbaek_Travels

Parking at The Belgium Grand Prix

Parking tickets are a must if you are to get the most of your Spa experience and come included in your ticket price if you select them as add-ons. We parked close to the circuit entry by Combes Gate. There are four entry Gates to Spa in total -be prepared for waiting times and security checks as you go through them.

Dismal parking administration once the race is done means that you should be prepared to spend up to 3 hours waiting to get out of the parking lot itself, as Europe’s best “every man for himself get out of the parking spot” contest kicks in, with each car squirming for the same outlet. While Spa’s rustic charm has its merits, this is one the elements of this experience we could have done without and something that the organisers must look to address in future years.Parking chaos at the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix

Parking chaos at the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix @Kortbaek_Travels

What session to attend?

A Formula 1 weekend packs experiences of all sorts in for the entire family. In addition to race day, you will probably also want to see some of the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday and of course, qualifying on Saturday. There are also Formula 3000 and GP2 races (seeding series for Formula 1 where some of tomorrow’s stars are doing their best to carve a name for themselves in motorsport). It goes without saying that on race day, the best seats in the house belong to the early birds, so get up in good time and find your spot.

This being Spa, be prepared to walk some distance to take a leak every now and again as things fill up very quickly. I can also advise bringing or buying something to sit on – either camping chairs or simply foam plates, as it can be wet, muddy and uncomfortable to sit at some areas of Spa. The build-up to the race is also an event in itself. As such, get your lunch well before the Driver’s parade around the track (the closest most people will ever come to their racing idols) so you can also experience this element of the race.Mercede's Lewis Hamilton waves to the ground during the driver's parade

Mercede’s Lewis Hamilton waves to the ground during the driver’s parade @Kortbaek_Travels

We were unfortunate enough to have Disc Jockey, two Twerkers and a very bad MC across the track from us who, tasked with warming the crowd up, did a very poor job of churning out a mix of cheesy requests, loud, unbearable hard dance music and dance moves that should probably never have seen the light of day. This dynamic quartet also managed to disconnect the sound from the paddock and race commentary and were eventually booed off by most of the spectators.

A full map of the track can be found below or via the link in the caption.Map Courtesy of Spa Francorchamps.be

Map Courtesy of Spa Francorchamps.be

The Belgium Grand Prix 2018 – a Roundup

Renault had a bad race at Spa, with Nico Hulkenberg causing a turn 1 melee at the start of the race

Renault had a bad race at Spa, with Nico Hulkenberg causing a turn 1 melee at the start of the race @Kortbaek_Travels

After a tense Saturday qualifying session which saw the rain wreak havoc late on in the session, Mercedes were well-poised to put in a strong showing at The Belgian Grand Prix. Come race day on Sunday, however, and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel had other plans. Powered by the best-performing engine of all the cars in the field, he took the lead on The Kemmel Straight early on, flying past Lewis Hamilton and going on to build an unassailable advantage lap by lap.

Further down the advancing pack, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg missed his braking point by some distance into the first corner, sending Fernando Alonso’s Orange McLaren hurtling over the Sauber of Charles Leclerc – an incident that brought out the yellow flags and spiced things up for the spectators. Vettel went on to win, followed by Hamilton and Max Verstappen in his Red Bull racer, some distance off the pace but on the podium in front of his legions nonetheless.

What to bring with you on your trip to Spa Francorchamps

Be prepared for a bit of everything at The Belgian Grand Prix!

Be prepared for a bit of everything at The Belgian Grand Prix! @Kortbaek_Travels

Last but not least, as with most of the content I will be producing, here is a list of what to bring with you on your trip:

  • An anorak / waterproof jacket
  • Wellington boots for the fainthearted
  • Camping seats or foam pads for your bum
  • Sunglasses
  • A good camera
  • Earplugs
  • Snacks and beverages
  • Merch to support your favourite team (obviously)