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Where to eat in Lisbon

Your guide for finding some of the best food that Lisbon has to offer

For the past few years Lisbon has been garnering a reputation as one of the best foodie capitals in Europe, and indeed the world. As a lover of food this is what initially made me interested in travelling to Lisbon. After watching several travel shows and reading numerous blogs about Lisbon I decided to try a few of my favourite recommendations during my stay.

Breakfast/Brunch

I love going out for breakfast/brunch but I didn’t find many standout places to have my first meal of the day in Lisbon. I think the breakfast revolution may not have hit Lisbon as hard as it hit London a few years ago but there’s nothing wrong with that. Lisbon is a city which focuses on delicious lunches and dinners so most days I had fruit and yoghurt from the local supermarket for breakfast. I did, however, have a few breakfast experiences which are worth noting if you are travelling to Lisbon.

Frutaria

This cute little café has very friendly staff, a menu filled with some healthy yet hearty breakfast items and is very close to Rossio Square. You can dine on acai bowls or avocado toast with eggs but my favourite dish here was the B.A.R.T (bacon, avocado, rocket and tomato) sandwich. It was made from fresh, soft, slightly toasted bread with thick slices of bacon, tomato and avocado and a liberal dollop of lime mayonnaise. All the ingredients worked extremely well together. It was so good that I got it on my way to the airport when I was travelling back to London so that I could eat it whilst I was waiting for my flight to depart. Their smoothies and juices are also incredibly fresh and flavourful and come in cute Mason jars.

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Heim Café

This brunch spot is in the Santos neighbourhood of Lisbon which seemed very sleepy and peaceful as I was walking through it to get to Heim Café. Heim Café serves a lot of dishes which you would expect to find at a brunch spot and the food was relatively affordable. I was able to get a smorgasbord of food (all the food pictured below) for around 13 euros which was really great value. I did eat this by myself as I was travelling solo but this breakfast could and probably should be shared between two people.

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Lunch/Dinner

I came to Lisbon believing that food was going to be very cheap. Based on my experience I would say that breakfast and fast food (i.e. burgers and hot dogs) are cheap but authentic Portuguese food, especially seafood, will resemble the sort of prices you see in London. Once again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing but just something to bear in mind when saving up for your trip.

Cervejaria Ramiro

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This restaurant is just a stone’s throw from A Vida Portuguesa and is probably one of the most famous Portuguese restaurants in Lisbon. Most of the Lisbon travel shows which I watched mentioned this very popular seafood place, and with good reason. This place serves an assortment of fresh and delicious seafood such as lobster, prawns, crab, sea urchins etc. It really is a seafood lover’s paradise – the walls are decorated with murals of seafood and the restaurant is adorned with tanks containing live lobsters and crabs. As this place is extremely popular make sure you dine early. There was plenty of space when I arrived at 12.30pm for lunch and it might also be easier to find a table if you go for an early dinner (from 5-6pm). Remember to bring your wallet as well as whilst the seafood is delicious it isn’t cheap.

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They brought this plate of hot buttered toast to my table after I ordered, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Giant tiger prawns – these were fresh, sweet and utterly delicious. I don’t think I had ever had prawns this tasty before coming to Ramiro.

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I ordered a prego roll to finish off my meal as is customary at Ramiro. This is essentially a steak sandwich – the juicy beef was topped with sautéed garlic and served between two soft slices of bread. They also bring you some mustard to eat with it and although I do like mustard I personally thought the roll tasted even better without it. In total I paid 24 euros (this included a bottle of water and a tip as my server was particularly helpful and attentive). It was totally worth it as the food was faultless.

Taberna da Rua das Flores

This restaurant in the Chiado district serves some interesting and flavourful dishes in an intimate and somewhat rustic setting. It gets busy at dinner time so try going for an early dinner or a late lunch to beat the queues. N.B. They don’t have a paper menu for food; all the food items which are available are read to you by a waiter from a blackboard and the menu changes regularly.

I had a veal dish with charred pineapple, black beans, some greens and a sort of grainy crumble on the side. Bar the strange crumble the dish was delectable; I would say that this was my second favourite meal in Lisbon after my feast at Ramiro.

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Bistrô Gato Pardo

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This restaurant was in the Graça/São Vicente neighbourhood of Lisbon. It was quaint, unassuming and small, however, it served some delicious food which was much needed after I spend an entire day walking around the Calouste Gulbenkian museum. I ordered a simple dish of mashed potatoes with lamb but there were other more adventurous items on the menu to choose from.

Pastéis de nata

Pastéis de Bélem

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If you tell anyone who has been to Lisbon that you are planning on visiting there is a good chance that they will tell you to try something called Pastéis de Nata (Portuguese custard tarts) at a place called Pastéis de Bélem. Whilst this is the birthplace of these delicious treats, it is by no means the best placed to get them in Lisbon in my opinion. I found the custard too eggy and stiff and the pastry a little burnt for my liking.

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Opinion on which place serves the best Pastéis de Nata in Lisbon is very divided. A lot of people who have informed me that their preferred tart option is Pastéis de Belem like the custard in them as it isn’t as sweet as the custard used at my preferred custard tart vendor, which I have highlighted below.

Manteigaria

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My preferred place to get these delectable treats was Manteigaria. They have a stall in Time Out Market as well as a standalone store in the Bairro Alto neighbourhood of Lisbon. These tarts had an incredibly smooth and silky custard, just the right level of sweetness and a perfectly buttery and flaky pastry base. The other thing about these tarts which gave them an edge over Pastéis de Bélem was that they were 1 euro each as compared with Pastéis de Bélem’s 2 euro charge for each of their tarts. These tarts were so moreish that I ate three in one sitting and seriously contemplated buying even more on that same day to have after my dinner. Just writing about them now is making me crave them.

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Some people will advise you to cover the custard tarts with cinnamon and icing sugar, but I preferred them without these extra ingredients. The tarts are tasty enough on their own.

Gelato

Santini

My favourite place in Lisbon for gelato was Santini. This is another enterprise which has a stall in Time Out Market as well as other standalone stores. You’ll find a Santini store in the Chiado neighbourhood as well as in Bélem close to the Jéronimos Monastery. I’ve been eating sorbet more and more these days as my body does not handle dairy like it used to and so when I went to Lisbon I only ate sorbet. Santini had the most amazing passion fruit and strawberry sorbet but they also had a wide range of other delicious dairy gelato flavours as well.

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Nannarella

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Another gelateria which I tried whilst in Lisbon was Nannarella. I ventured here as it was recommended by Phil Rosenthal in the Lisbon episode of his Netflix travel series “Somebody Feed Phil”. They had a nice selection of dairy gelato but I tried their mango, raspberry and lemon sorbet flavours. The lemon flavour was delicious but unfortunately, I was disappointed by the mango sorbet. It had a somewhat stringy and grainy texture which was off-putting. Also, I thought that the raspberry flavour was OK but nothing to write home about.

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That’s my round up of my favourite places to eat in Lisbon, let me know what your Lisbon food recommendations are!

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My day at the RA: The Royal Academy’s 250th Summer Exhibition

I spent some time at the Royal Academy to see the 250th Summer Exhibition which was curated by Grayson Perry

A lot of people who know me will tell you that I’m not a very spontaneous person. I would choose careful, methodical planning over making rash and random decisions any day of the week. I like analysing things and weighing up all my options because I like to mitigate the likelihood of being disappointed. I don’t do this all the time as that would be exhausting, but I do tend to do this when planning what I want to do at the weekend, holidays and where I want to eat.

One of the pitfalls of being overly analytical (apart from being incredibly boring) is that you might miss out on opportunities because you spend so much time weighing up all of your options and pondering whether or not you want to do something that before you know it the restaurant/exhibition/concert that you want to eat at/visit/attend has gone. I’m also a serial procrastinator which doesn’t help matters either. Having said that, however, I have been trying to be more spontaneous recently to ensure that I don’t miss out on so many opportunities.

Earlier this summer I read an interview with Grayson Perry about the Royal Academy’s 250th Summer Exhibition, which he was curating, in the ES Magazine and I thought it looked like an interesting thing to see but I never made a plan to actually go. Fast forward two or so months later and I see a sponsored post on my Instagram feed telling me that the exhibition was due to finish in a few days #serialprocrastinator. Instagram was clearly stalking my search history as the timing of this sponsored post was too eerie to have been a mere coincidence. When I saw the post, I decided that I wouldn’t let this exhibition be another one that slipped through my fingers so on the last Friday of the exhibition I decided to just book a ticket so that I could go straight after work.

Now many of you might not think that this is spontaneous but for me it was a big step in that direction. I’m still a long way away from waking up in the morning, packing up all my clothes, travelling to Heathrow Airport and booking a one-way flight to New York but this was impulsive enough for me to consider it as slightly spontaneous #babysteps.

The exhibition itself was huge and was contained within three different spaces in the RA. A lot of the art was very topical and somewhat satirical in nature, but most of it was cleverly constructed, incredibly innovative and intricately put together. I’m not an art connoisseur by any means but I appreciate art which is humorous, has a hidden message or looks as though it has been painstakingly put together over the course of several months or even years.

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This dog was one of the best things I saw at the exhibition. It was made from what looked like recycled jewellery such as old watch heads, necklaces and brooches.

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This was another one of my favourite pieces. From afar it looked like a painting but the horses and trees were 3D and looked extremely life-like up close.

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As well as the art on show I also loved the atmosphere at the RA. It was buzzing and really felt like a Friday night at the museum. The space was bustling full of families, couples and lone ranger art enthusiasts who were soaking in all the work on display. There was also a bar serving an assortment of wine and prosecco; I’d never seen an art gallery or museum serve alcohol before. I didn’t know if this was happening because of the significance of the exhibition or because it was a Friday, but I didn’t ask why, I just got stuck in and enjoyed myself in what felt like my new happy place.

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This was one of the most unusual, yet interesting and fun exhibitions that I have ever been to and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. Have you ever been to the RA?

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Shopping in Lisbon: A Vida Portuguesa

A spacious and aesthetically pleasing store in Lisbon where you can find gifts aplenty

I try not to go shopping when I’m on holiday. I despise clothes shopping when I’m abroad as the very thought of trying on clothes after a day spent walking (and sweating) around a hot city makes me shudder in horror. I also generally try to avoid buying other things like souvenirs because I am often flying short-haul to a European city and have stuffed my carry-on suitcase with so many clothes that I struggle to close it even when I am about to leave my house to go to the airport. I think this habit can be explained by my hypochondriac tendencies and perpetual need to have spare clothes just in case I get a stain on a piece of clothing, sweat profusely during the day and therefore need another outfit later in the day, or in case, through some unknown and unforeseen event, I tear a hole in a pair of jeans. I am a hypochondriac indeed.

There are, however, a few exceptions to my “no shopping rule whilst abroad” rule. If there is something I want to buy for myself abroad because it is cheaper or unavailable in the UK I will make a conscious effort to create space in my luggage for it. Additionally, I will consider shopping abroad when I want to buy a birthday or special occasion present for someone that’s a little more unique than what I might typically find in London. When I was in Lisbon I thought about how my niece’s third birthday was coming up, which in turn made me conjure up memories of a shop which I had seen in a YouTube video about Lisbon and which looked like the perfect place to find gifts. The shop in question is called A Vida Portuguesa.

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A Vida Portuguesa has a few locations in Lisbon. The original store in the Chiado neighbourhood is probably the most famous branch, however, the newer and much larger location on Largo do Intendente Pina Manique, which was conveniently only a six-minute walk from my Airbnb, has a much bigger selection of products and is even more aesthetically pleasing than the original (both inside and outside the store).

A Vida Portuguesa means “A Portuguese Life” and as the name might suggest the shop contains an array of items, both essential and extravagant, which one would find in a home. The shop is stocked with an array of toiletries, homeware, food, books, toys and quite possibly anything else that your heart desires. Shelves were stacked high with delicious smelling soaps, handcream and bodycream, tables were adorned with cutlery and crockery and larders were lined with olive oil, sardines, biscuits and the seemingly ubiquitous Portuguese cherry liquor Ginja.

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What makes this shop even more amazing is that its products are made in Portugal and many of the products available for purchase are still manufactured by family run businesses. The shop itself is stunning and almost looks like a villa which one might find in the Douro valley. Most of the shelves and tables were made of what I can only assume was fine Portuguese wood which had been varnished to perfection.

Another thing that I loved about this shop was that it was really quiet. This branch is in the Mouraria district of Lisbon which isn’t particularly touristy. With the exception of about seven people who wandered in and out of the store during my visit I had the entire place to myself. I loved being able to freely take as many photos as I wanted and take my time looking for gifts.

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Azulejos (tiles), ubiquitous in Portugal

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Clothes on the upper level on the shop

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A bit of old Hollywood glam in Lisbon

The products aren’t cheap, but neither are they extortionately expensive. I was eyeing up a few 50g soap bars but at eight euros each they were a little too rich for my blood. However, had I set more money aside for shopping for this trip I would have definitely purchased some for myself. Also, given that they are made in Portugal and not made en masse in a factory somewhere in the Far East I think the prices can be justified.

In the end I left the store longing for the verbena, tuberose and wild moss soaps which I thought smelled amazing but content with the biscuits I had bought for my work colleagues and the mini tambourine which I had purchased for my niece (I also bought her a dress from a market in London when I returned from my holiday in Lisbon; the dress had also been made by an independent retailer #supportSMEs).

If you are looking for well-made, authentic and typically Portuguese gifts or souvenirs then this is the place to get them from.

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Free Art in Lisbon: The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

If you’re looking for an amazing art collection in Lisbon which you can access for free look no further than the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum

I absolutely adore art galleries and museums. I could quite happily spend time in an art gallery or a museum for an entire day if the collection is big enough. I think my love of art stems from my love of learning new things. I love history and learning more about the world around me and I find that art museums allow you to learn so much about different facets of history which have either inspired artists or had a profound effect on their work and lives. I think the only thing I love more than art galleries and museums is free art. I am forever grateful about the fact that I was born, raised and continue to live in London, a city which prides itself on being able to provide residents and tourists alike with a raft of different art galleries and museums which are highly accessible and largely free to enter (excluding private/special exhibitions). I think that this approach to art says a lot about how much a country believes that art is truly for everyone and that the enjoyment of art shouldn’t be restricted to a wealthy minority but should be available for all.

After doing some research I found out that the Calouste Gulbenkian museum, which normally charges visitors 12.50 euros, is free on Sundays from 2pm onwards (N.B. you still need to get a paper ticket from the reception desk as they scan in all visitors). I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t purposely arrange my visit so that I could arrive early on a Sunday, grab some lunch and enjoy an afternoon at the Calouste Gulbenkian museum for free. See, I really do love museums! Straight after I landed in Lisbon I dropped off my bags at my Airbnb, got a bite to eat and then headed straight to the museum.

Before I arrived at the museum entrance, I was amazed at how much greenery was surrounding the museum. It seemed to be enclosed by a large garden, which meant that the museum itself was in a very secluded and green space. As I wondered through the garden I was taken aback by how quiet and lush it was. It looked like the perfect place to spend a chilled Sunday afternoon.

The collection inside the museum itself is vast and varied. The museum is separated into different sections including the founder’s collection (which has a temporary exhibition adjacent to it) and the modern collection. In his will Calouste Gulbenkian, the Armenian oil tycoon and art enthusiast after whom the museum is named, bequeathed his private collection to a museum which he specified should be built in Lisbon to protect and exhibit it.

Over several decades he amassed an art collection which dwarfs that of the National Gallery in London. The space is filled with over 6000 works of art including porcelain from the far east, intricately painted Nanban screens and pottery adorned with Islamic calligraphy.

You can also find paintings from Dutch masters like Rembrandt in addition to masterpieces from the likes of Gainsborough, J.M.W. Turner and Claude Monet. The museum is also filled with ornate tapestries, armoires, candelabras and clocks; all in all, I was truly amazed at the depth and breath of the collection.

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A painting by Rembrandt Van Rijn

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A painting by Thomas Gainsborough

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Another thing I loved about the museum was that the walls nearest to the garden were large floor to ceilings windows. Even though some windows were tinted or covered with screens to protect the paintings from natural light which was pouring through the building, I felt as though the windows gave the museum the illusion that the paintings weren’t only contained inside but were outside amongst the flora and fauna surrounding the museum. This made the space seem even bigger than it was and gave you the impression that there were no real boundaries between the interior and the exterior.

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View of the garden through a floor to ceiling window

The museum also featured a temporary exhibition called “Pós Pop”. This mainly featured pop art created in the 1960s onwards by a raft of mainly Portuguese and British artists. This temporary exhibition provided a nice contrast to the art which I had just witnessed in the founder’s exhibition.

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All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Calouste Gulbenkian museum. If you are a lover of art (Renaissance or modern, paintings or sculpture) and luscious, serene green spaces I highly recommend giving this place a visit – especially on a Sunday afternoon!

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Spotlight on Ghana’s Central Region: Cape Coast Castle and Kakum National Forest

I was recently listening to an episode of Amanda Seales’ podcast Small Doses where she was in conversation with the inimitable Michaela Cole (of Chewing Gum, Black Earth Rising and I May Destroy You fame) and the formidable Noma Dumezweni (of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Black Earth Rising fame). This episode (Small Doses: Side Effects of Pan Africanism – part 1) was released pre-Coronavirus in early 2019. In this episode Amanda mentions a trip she took to Ghana where she visited the Central Region.

Cape Coast Castle

While recounting her trip, Amanda talks about how the area that she stayed in reminded her of the lush tropical beaches of Grenada, the Caribbean island where her mum hails from. The climate was the same and the fruit on offer was the same. While making this comparison she touches on how familiar and at home she felt in this part of Ghana even though she was several thousands of miles from Grenada. As soon as I heard her say this, I instantly understood what she meant. When I travelled to the Maaha Beach Resort in the Western Region of Ghana during my 2019 trip (more on this to come in a future guide) this is exactly how I felt. The coast looked like a postcard from the Caribbean. The beaches had soft sand which glistened in the equatorial sunshine, bountiful trees which released coconuts without any hesitation and crystal-clear blue waters. The picturesque beaches which adorn the coast of Ghana’s Central Region make visiting Cape Coast Castle (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) an even more emotionally charged experience once you learn more about what happened at the castle itself, on these waters and beyond.

Most people who visit Ghana put visiting Cape Coast Castle high on their list, and for good reason. It is one of the best-preserved slave castles in West Africa. Indeed, Ghana was the first African country former US President Barack Obama visited once he was inaugurated. There is even a plaque to mark the occasion which is fixed to the wall of the castle, such is the power, magnitude, and significance of the first black president of the US within many African countries. As someone who grew up with mixed white European and black African heritage, and who spent a lot of time in his 20s and 30s learning about his African heritage, I have no doubt that Obama felt it incumbent upon himself to pay homage to a site which represents the legacy of slavery in Africa and America, as well as the impact that the Transatlantic Slave Trade has had and continues to have on the world.

When I arrived at Cape Coast Castle with my sister and cousin, we joined a tour group. Within this group we were led by our learned guide, Francis Kofi. As he described how enslaved people were kept in the depths of the castle, often spending hours and days in overcrowded dark cells which were filled with their own excrement, I could not help but feel saddened, weakened and angry by what I was hearing. I had some knowledge of the horrors endured by enslaved people in slave castles (which I had researched myself, not found out about in school), but I had never received such an extensive education as the one I received while in this tour group. Even more upsetting was our visit to the upper levels of the castle, where the British officials and their families would live in the lap of luxury, hearing the screams of enslaved people beneath them as they went to sleep and went about their days. This immediately brought back visions of reading Yaa Gyasi’s seminal book Homegoing, in which one character describes hearing screams beneath her as she resided in the slave castle with her white British husband and mixed-raced child.

What was even more heart-wrenching was looking at the ocean from the castle. It initially seemed beautiful until I thought about how many bodies had sunk to the depths of the ocean during the days of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. I pondered how to feel about such a beautiful backdrop when I knew what atrocities had been committed in the very space that I was standing. I thought what an immense privilege it was to even be alive at this time as a Black woman and to be standing where I was, listening to such stories, rather than a person who experienced these atrocities first hand in the dungeons I had stood in only moments earlier. I thought about the ways in which the legacy of slavery continues to impact Black people throughout the diaspora today. My heart was heavy.

Kakum National Forest

Also located within the Central Region, but considerably further inland, is Kakum National Forest. This is a lush green oasis where you can do everything from camp overnight or wander across the canopies from amazing heights. We were pressed for time (and not interested in camping) so we elected for the latter. As you make your ascent to the top (make sure to wear trainers/sneakers – some visitors were very badly prepared for the climb) you will marvel at the formidable flora surrounding you.

There are two canopy walks available – a short one and a longer one. We were pressed for time and so we chose the former. We also saw a group of boys deliberately scaring people on the longer canopy walk by shaking the barriers and thought we could do without this additional anxiety. I feel as though it is necessary for me to say that the canopy walks are incredibly safe. I initially had visions of those rickety bridges you see in cartoons; with huge gaps between each horizontal piece of wood and very suspect structural integrity. However, my assumptions couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The planks of wood were sturdy and long vertical slabs of wood which were reinforced with metal. The net surrounding the canopy walk was also very robust and very tall, so there is no way for you to fall out. I am not great with heights but felt very safe and really enjoyed this experience. However, if you are afraid of heights, and a group of tourists have decided to trigger this fear by unnecessarily shaking the canopy, you will feel very uneasy about this experience. One woman was so traumatised by the group of boys who chose to shake the canopy that she didn’t stop screaming for the entire duration of my shorter canopy walk. She even felt the need to, against the advice guides who tell you not to do this, turn around and walk back to the start. So, I implore you, if you decide to go don’t try and be a comedian and make other people nervous. Just let people try and overcome their fears in peace.

There are so many more wonderful and informative sites to see in the Central Region. We were pressed for time as we only went for one day, but I recommend spending more time here to really absorb everything that this fantastic region has to offer.

Have you ever been to the Central Region of Ghana?

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Check out my previous Ghana posts:

Accra travel guide – Where to eat in Accra

In this blog post I share my top tips for dining out in central Accra

When I first arrived in Accra, I spent almost a week with my uncle and aunt in a hilly town called Abokobi-Boi eating an array of Ghanaian foods. These are the dishes I grew up eating but eventually drifted away from slightly as I became obsessed with trying food from different cuisines and cultures once I went to university. Most Ghanaian dishes take a while to make, at least when you make them authentically, and so I found that when rushing around as a university student, and later when I entered the world of work, I did not prioritise time to make these dishes from my youth. Every time I got to eat a dish in Ghana that I had eaten back home in London as a child I felt as though I was experiencing a warm hug. It felt like I was being blanketed and embraced by an assortment of savoury, spicy and sweet delights. There is something (or indeed many things) about having food in the country it comes from that makes it taste a lot better. The ingredients in Ghana are often very fresh and organic which helps, but besides this there are some ingredients that you need for Ghanaian food that you can’t get in London – even in the most cosmopolitan areas with thriving Ghanaian communities.

I ate some very delicious Ghanaian meals courtesy of my aunt like groundnut (peanut) soup, red red stew with a boiled egg and of course jollof rice and chicken. Unfortunately, my aunt’s kitchen is currently not open to the general public so I will be recounting my foodie adventures with my sister in Accra, after we spent three days in Cantonments: one of Accra’s most stylish neighbourhoods. I only had a few days here and so there are many restaurants that I did not have the time to visit, however, I have listed them below as I have heard nothing but positive reviews and so they should definitely go on your list!

 

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Café Kwae

This lovely, cosy little spot in Airport City has a fantastic brunch menu as well as coffee and cake on offer. I had French toast with a smoothie and shared a fruit bowl with my sister. The papaya and pineapple fruit salad tasted delicious and much better than any tropical produce that you will get in the UK.


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This space is in the shopping district of Accra named Osu. Not only does it offer a great brunch menu complete with fresh juices, but it also doubles as a co-working space. I saw many an expat and “Afropolitan” working away on their MacBook Pros at tables outside while I enjoyed my delicious plate of food in the air-conditioned interior.


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Coco Lounge

Coco Lounge is a restaurant and evening lounge designed with millennials in mind. The stylish interiors look amazing in the daylight and at nighttime. They also provide the perfect backdrop for getting your obligatory “Instagrammable” pics. The food and drink are also on point so coming here during a visit to Accra is a no-brainer.


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XO

XO is a glorious restaurant which brings together flavours and dishes from East Asia and South East Asia; offering everything from pad thai to sushi and much more. The produce is fresh and delicious and the interiors, much like those of Coco Lounge, really come alive at night but are also stunning during the day. The space is filled with rose gold fixtures and touches of pink cherry blossoms. They also have an extensive and impressive cocktail menu which makes it the perfect spot to relax with friends and family.


Lord of the Wings

My sister and I came here when we were craving some fast food (you can take the girl out of London…) and it did not disappoint. This restaurant has a few locations around the world; the branch I visit was located about a seven-minute Uber drive away from where we were staying in Cantonments. If you need a quick fast food fix and want to sample a variety of marinades and sauces to go with your wings, look no further.


Below are a few restaurants I did not get around to visiting but which I heard amazing things about.

Chez Clarisse – an Ivorian restaurant which offers a variety of delicious dishes, including plates of grilled tilapia fish and chicken with an assortment of colourful and flavourful side dishes.

Buka – a Ghanaian restaurant selling staple Ghanaian dishes such as red red stew, fufu and kelewele

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Accra travel guide – What to do in Accra

The best places in Accra for shopping, art, culture and learning about Ghana’s rich history

Shopping

The Arts Centre/Centre for National Culture

This is less of a market and more of a bustling mini metropolis. Here you will find an array of stalls selling everything from wooden adinkra symbol carvings to an assortment of Kente-inspired clothing. As well as this you can find items ranging from serving bowls to fans and purses. One thing to be aware of when coming here is that you need to haggle – if you can it’s best to find a guide who knows the market well to take you around so that you can avoid paying astronomical prices. Expect to be approached and encouraged by every stall holder to look at their wares; some will sit and call you over whilst others will walk up to you with their t-shirts in tow. This is the best (and probably the cheapest) place to find souvenirs to take home for friends and family so make sure you make time to visit. Also be sure to bring cash as many vendors will not have card machines.

Global Mamas, Osu

If you are looking to do some socially conscious shopping, then look no further than Global Mamas. This shop is an NGO and sells everything from organic Fairtrade cotton batik clothing and household accessories to handmade earrings and Christmas decorations. A proportion of the sales of the store’s items are used to fund education programmes for the women (and their children) responsible for making all the goods on sale. This is another fantastic place to grab some souvenirs or do some shopping for yourself.

All Pure Nature, Osu

This store is a natural skincare lover’s dream. All the soaps and lotions in stock are made from natural ingredients and feature lots of ingredients which are unique to or are grown in Ghana. The shop is adorned with everything from moringa and baobab soap to pots of shea butter which have been lightly fragranced. I bought a couple of the soaps myself and I can honestly say I regret not buying more. They lather up wonderfully and leave your skin feeling beautifully soft. As well as a standalone store in Osu there is a slightly smaller All Pure Nature store inside Marina Mall.

The Shop Accra, Osu

This is probably the shop that stood out the most to me during my shopping spree in Accra. It is filled to the brim with artwork, clothing and accessories for those who want to buy trendy items which transition well from season to season. A lot of the items for sale are also handmade by craftsmen and women in Ghana. Some of the accessories I spotted would not look out of place in an Oliver Bonas or & Other Stories; these pieces instantly caught my eye! The shop also has an assortment of skincare, body care, homeware items, stationery and even a small café. It is truly a treasure trove of fantastic fashion that is both modern and traditionally Ghanaian at the same time.

Arts, History & Culture

The Kempinski Hotel and Gallery 1957

On the ground floor of the Kempinski Hotel in Accra is a fantastic free art gallery filled with works from internationally renowned Ghanaian artists. After wandering through the ever-changing exhibition head up to one of the many bars in the hotel, preferably the one by the pool that has a great view of the rest of Accra, for a cocktail and some freshly made plantain chips.

The name of the gallery is a reference to the year that Ghana became a country which was governed by its people and not by the British, its colonial oppressors since the nineteenth century.

Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum

This is a must-visit tourist destination in Ghana. Here you will find items that used to belong to Ghana’s first president and prime minister and the man who led the first African country to independence from its colonial oppressors in 1957. The museum within the mausoleum contains an abundance of information about his life as well as several photos of him with notable public figures from the past and present such as JFK, Queen Elizabeth II and Chairman Mao.

Aburi Gardens

It is said that Aburi Gardens was founded by a student of Kew Gardens in Richmond. Whilst these botanical gardens are not as large or as grand as Kew, they do hold an assortment of plant life. As is the case with a few of Ghana’s main tourist sites, these gardens were not particularly well maintained. Indeed, there were a few pieces of litter in and around all the beautiful trees and flowers. Greater maintenance is needed for sure, but it is still worth a visit.

Aburi also has a very cool and breezy microclimate and so if you need any respite from the hot and humid Accra weather a short trip to Aburi will help you cool off. Also – as we travelled up to the hills of Aburi our guide for the day showed us Bob Marley’s former home in Ghana.

Artists Alliance Gallery

If you are looking for artwork to decorate a house or authentic Kente cloth, look no further than the Artists Alliance Gallery. You will be able to find plenty of beautiful paintings and ornate large wood carvings for sale here. This large gallery even has a room dedicated to Kente where you can find out what each of the patters mean and choose your own hand woven authentic Ghanaian Kente cloth. I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures but rest assured this gallery is well worth a trip.

Jamestown

This historic part of Accra plays host to the Chale Wote Festival every year. Whilst trying to find my way to the Jamestown Café and other modern hipster places in Jamestown that I’d read about online, my sister, uncle and I were stopped near the lighthouse by a man who offered to give us a tour of the area. This is always something to be mindful about. Whilst people are very hospitable, looking like a tourist will always make people try and extract money out of you in some way shape or form. This is just as true in Ghana as it is in Brazil, South East Asia and quite frankly many tourist destinations around the world. I thought he might be able to take us to the modern part of Jamestown but he just took us on a short walk along the beach by the fishing boats and James Fort Prison.

We paid him 20 cedis for his time and we felt safe but the experience wasn’t anything to write home about. It was, however, interesting to see James Fort Prison. This was where Kwame Nkrumah was imprisoned shortly before becoming the first president and prime minister of Ghana.

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Why you should be planning a trip to Ghana post-lockdown

Ghana has much to offer to all who visit, whether you love food, art and culture, history, shopping or beaches. In this post I will be informing you of why you need to add this beautiful country to your travel bucket list.

It has been a wild year to say the least. The year started off with news of wildfires ravaging Australia. Next, COVID-19 hit the world hard and later the world suddenly decided to pay attention to the plight of Black people. In the wake of the killing of George Floyd so much of what black people have been saying over the past few years, decades and centuries about not just overt acts of racism but subtle microaggressions (which, to be honest, can be very macro), gaslighting and British imperial amnesia (regarding the slave trade and acts of genocide perpetrated by the British government) is finally being heard by the white masses and other people of colour who were hitherto unbothered by racist acts that they felt did not directly affect them or concern them. How times have changed.

I have found myself reflecting on a lot during this time, especially travel. As many of my friends and family are lamenting cancelled trips and the inability to confidently book any city breaks or far-flung escapes for the foreseeable future, I have been increasingly thinking about the future of travel in a post-COVID-19 world where many people have become more conscious of the racism that Black people face on a daily basis and have faced for centuries. I have been increasingly thinking about whether this will have any material effect on the way people travel or where people choose to visit going forward.

I have often felt that except for Northern Africa, Zanzibar and South Africa, Africa has not been a desirable travel destination for even the most ardent of travellers. Indeed, when I see maps that have pins which highlight cities that have been visited by keen explorers, I seldom see any in Africa. Instead I see clusters around Europe, South Asia, East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the Americas. Literally everywhere else in the world seems to be a must visit travel destination except for all sub-Saharan African countries. Why is this the case? I have a few theories:

  • Decades of sub-Saharan African countries being negatively depicted by biased media outlets around the world as poor, as well as disease and famine-stricken, have made many people believe that these countries have nothing of interest, or of value, to offer tourists
  • These countries are also depicted as politically volatile and dangerous, which is ignorant and a mass over-generalisation. This is also an image which is perpetuated by biased media outlets
  • Travelling to these countries requires injections and medication that can be costly or off-putting to travellers

Regarding the first point, I would say that so many sub-Saharan countries have much more to offer than what you see the incredibly biased media outlets in the UK, USA and many other countries showcasing. Africa has so much beauty, culture, and hospitality to offer; I will be using my trip to Ghana in 2019 to showcase how rich a trip to a sub-Saharan country can be. About the second point, I would say that it is important to always proceed with caution, but to also remember that there is danger in all countries including the developed world. One only needs to watch the recording of the brutal murder of George Floyd to see that safety is not a given in a rich and highly developed country. Regarding the third point, there are several countries that require medical precautions, including vaccines and medication. For example, Brazil has seen a steady increase in the number of tourists visiting over the past few years and yet most visitors are required to get vaccinations for at least Typhoid, Tetanus and Hepatitis A. This illustrates that vaccinations and medication for travel need not be a deterrent.

As the world seems to be “waking up” (a phrase I still find laughable because it reveals the privilege that some people have to “wake up” to something that people have been suffering from for decades), I am suggesting that more people travel to Ghana. Yes, I am biased because my family hail from Ghana but there is so much more to my desire for more people to travel to Ghana. Ghana is a visually stunning country, the beaches in the Western region are some of the finest you will ever see. Moreover, last year Ghana amassed a whopping £1.5bn ($1.9bn) because of its “year of the return” tourism campaign. This campaign marked the 400-year anniversary (from 1619-2019) of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to North America when they arrived at Jamestown, Virginia. The campaign aimed to encourage people in the African diaspora to visit Ghana and learn more about its rich history, culture, and outdoor activities. Ghana has numerous slave castles where the most learned of tour guides will give you haunting yet in-depth and enlightening accounts of what life was like for enslaved Africans before they were sent to the Americas. You will hear about how they were forced to endure truly horrifying and brutal conditions in the slave castles before leaving through the door of no return to travel across the Atlantic on the slave ships that would take them to the Americas.

Beyond learning about the rich history of Ghana there is plenty to do in terms of shopping, eating, drinking, lounging on beaches and engaging in other fun activities. In the next few posts, I will recount some of my highlights from my trip from my time in Accra and elsewhere in Ghana.

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Homegoing

My thoughts and feelings about my first trip to Ghana

I thought long and hard about what my first trip to Ghana would feel like. I’d spoken to friends and relatives who had gone for a while before I left from Gatwick Airport in early April 2019. All the people I spoke to told me how amazing it would be and how much fun I would have. They told me that travelling through Ghana would make me feel as though I was coming home. Up until the moment that I landed I had doubts that I would feel like this. Despite having grown up in a Ghanaian household where there was always Ghanaian food on the table and the sound of Ghana radio was never far away, I thought that travelling through Ghana would be a huge culture shock. I’d heard all sorts of stories from friends who spoke of how they felt like an alien when visiting Ghana, or in their respective cultural homelands. They explained that they were always viewed as “British” and that this labelling came with a whole raft of hostility and prejudice, for obvious reasons.

Last year I read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and it made me curious to find out more about my heritage and culture by visiting Ghana. Although I’ve always been aware of various aspects of Ghanaian history and culture, I’ve always thought that there were things I would never truly understand until I visited. 2019 was dubbed “the year of the return” as it marks 400 years since the first enslaved African arrived in what is today known as the United States of America. As a result of this, and of reading Homegoing, my sister and I decided to plan our first trip to Ghana to take advantage of this drive for tourism and see everything that Ghana had to offer.

I can’t say that after coming back I had a greater understanding of Ghanaian history or culture. In fact, a lot of what I saw in the museums I visited I had already read in books or heard in lectures, notably at the V&A’s Ghana @ 60 celebrations. What I experienced when I travelled to Ghana, however, was more valuable than anything I could have read in any book or heard from any lecture. What I saw was a country that was much more prosperous than any television advert or National Geographic documentary could ever and would ever have you believe. When I was based in Accra I saw “Afropolitan” businesses, cafes and restaurants that would not look out of place in the most metropolitan parts of Cape Town or even London. I visited shops that sold fine, handmade accessories, as well as furniture and clothing which was made by Ghanaian craftsmen and women. I visited art galleries which featured works from Ghana’s finest contemporary artists. In short, Ghana has a lot to offer for the seasoned traveller who is used to mainly exploring European cities.

Of course, there were some things that I found frustrating about Ghana. Firstly, Ghana is not a cheap place to visit. In fact, the prices that you’ll pay for food in the newer, trendy restaurants are on par with prices that you’ll pay for food in London. This makes little sense given its status as a developing country but it’s something to bear in mind when saving to travel here. Trying to get a visa to travel to Ghana is also a highly stressful and disorganised affair, but I’ll cover some tips to help you navigate through this in a future post. Also, there are times when the customer service I received was questionable, especially when visiting key landmarks like the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Aburi Gardens, but this is not unique to Ghana or indeed any African country. Having said this, however, Ghana has a lot more to offer than that which it lacks. As well as traversing through the bustling hub that is Accra, I had the pleasure of travelling to the Western Region where I relaxed on the beautiful Ghanaian cost and enjoyed the surprisingly warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean. I also visited the Central Region where I listened to detailed and harrowing tales of the world-famous Cape Coast Castle from one of the many formidable tour guides that take you through this UNESCO Heritage Site.

No story or anecdote will ever be a substitute for venturing to faraway lands. Every breath, view and smell are a feast for the senses and cannot be achieved other than through travelling to experience this for yourself. I hope that through my subsequent posts I will present a side of Ghana which will change your perceptions about it and reveal all the wonders that it has to offer visitors from near and far.

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