A Week in Phuket, Thailand

Last month we went on holiday to Phuket. We love Thailand and its food so much that we were really looking forward to coming back after 2 years.

Our criteria for choosing our holiday location was that it needed to be in a main city/island so we could find things to do and eat in the evenings (nothing very secluded). Transportation needed to be affordable so we would have the freedom to go anywhere without spending a lot (renting a scooter in Thailand is about 8 euros per day). To find a nice resort since we would be spending most of the daytime just relaxing by the beach/pool. The beach needed to be nice and preferably not too touristy. 

After a lot of research, we decided to go to Phuket. We heard that it is a party island but it is a large island. We searched for a place to stay in an area that was a bit quieter. That’s how we found The Surin Phuket Resort. This resort is located in a small bay so it shares the beach with another resort. And since there are a lot of rocks on each corner of the bay, it makes the beach pretty much private, since you have to enter through either of the two resorts. The beach was beautiful. The current was a bit strong with waves so you had to be a bit careful. But at least during our 7-day stay, we didn’t see any vendors on the beach. We were also very lucky with the weather. We went there in July during monsoon season, so we expected rain. The first time that we were in Thailand it was also during this season and we got rain everyday. But it was only for about an hour. This time around, we only got rain on one day and it only lasted 30 minutes.

The resort was beautiful, the service was excellent. I loved that they offered cold water by the pool. There were always complimentary glass bottles of water in the room. About 3 times per week they had a small complimentary tea time by the pool. They served ice cream, fruit, mini sandwiches and other local bites. The buffet breakfast was also very good with plenty of choices and also a very varied a la carte menu. If you followed my Instagram stories, you probably saw that I was having curry for breakfast every day. They offer massages at the beach, which we really enjoyed. I would definitely recommend this hotel.

The only thing is that it was a bit far from most night markets and the city center. But we decided that it was worth driving 30-45 minutes in a scooter at night to go get food, than to stay in more touristy area and have a less private beach. One tip if you decide to stay in this hotel, ask for a room the closest down in the category that you choose. The resort is located on a hill, which gives a nice view and privacy. But that also means stairs to go up to the room and down to the beach. And if you are on the highest part, that means a lot of stairs. 

In the evenings we went to some night markets. There are many in the island and they open on different days, so check online which is closest to you. If you have a sweet tooth, try the Roti. it is a sort of very thin pancake stuffed with fruit like banana or mango, and topped with condensed milk. The dough is so thin that it gets super crispy when cooked. They sell it a most night markets. In Phuket old town there is one every Sunday from 4-10pm, this night market is very big. We also ate at two restaurants close to the hotel but the food was average. There were two restaurants that we loved during our stay. One of them is called Raya in Old Phuket town. Phuket specializes in seafood and one local dish is crab curry. Would definitely recommend to order it. It was not too spicy and it came with a very generous serving of crab meat. Other dishes that we also loved there was their whole fried fish with lemongrass & tamarind sauce, and the green curry. 

The other restaurant that we enjoyed is called Chomchan. It is from the same group of restaurants as Raya. From here we loved the fried softshell crab with mango salad, the deep fried tiger prawns with tamarind sauce, the red curry with tiger prawns and the whole fried fish with ginger and tamarind sauce. We came here twice for dinner. We found it slightly cheaper than Raya. The service was great and fast.

For more foodie inspiration, travel & lifestyle; you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook. For behind the scenes & more of Amsterdam you can follow my Instagram stories.

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First Timer’s Guide to Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto & Osaka)

We just came back from a week in Japan. This has been my favorite trip to date. The food was great for every budget. The people were very friendly. Despite the language barrier, we were always helped when we asked questions. Navigation was not hard because we had portable WiFi with us and google maps worked great. But finding the right gate or exit was sometimes a bit confusing since a lot of the stations were big and everything was in Japanese. We very often had to ask someone to help us find our way. It is definelty a country I would like to return to explore more of it. Or even go back to Tokyo just to eat. We were not sure what to expect there so we did a lot of research before our trip, to just to make it easier on us.

So here are my tips:

WiFi

  • Not many places offer free WiFi. Google maps works great to get around and to get public transport information but you can’t download it for Japan. So, you have to be online to be able to use it. Japanese people are very friendly and eager to help you, but the majority speaks very little to no English. Being able to use google translate and just being able to look anything up when we wanted to, just made our trip so much easier. It was definitely worth it for us. 
  • We rented a pocket WiFi device from Ivideo. Pieter found a discount code online. We ordered one for 8 days and we paid about 23 euros for it. We ordered it online and picked it up at the post office at the airport. It came fully charged and was ready to go. We could use it for up to 4 devices. The battery life lasted about 10 hours so in the evening, I would just charge it with a power bank while we were on the go. Ours came with a return envelope. So, before we left, we just dropped it off at one of the mail boxes at the airport. There were also stands where you can directly rent them at the airport, but it might be cheaper to do your research and rent it online. 

Transportation

The JR pass:

  • If you are planning on travelling through Japan, get a JR pass. With this pass you can travel throughout the country for a set price. The JR pass includes the Hikari Shinkansen (bullet train) which takes you from Tokyo to Kyoto (2 hours & 40 minutes) and from Kyoto to Osaka (15 minutes).  
  • If you are travelling with the JR pass, make sure to check online which trains are covered by it. For example, the Hikari bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto is covered but the Nozomi train which is 15 minutes faster is not covered. And the Kodama (also a bullet train) is covered but it is the slowest train, because it makes more stops.
  • You buy the JR pass online, it is only for tourists. Once you’ve bought it, you will get an exchange order sent to your home abroad and once you are at the airport, you exchange the voucher for the actual pass. Make sure to keep it safe. If you lose it, you cannot get refunded. 
  • You can buy it for 7, 14 or 21 days. Yo have to turn in your exchange order to get the JR pass within 3 months of purchase. So, don’t buy it earlier than 3 months before your trip.   
  • The JR pass also includes the Yamanote line which is a circular line that runs through major stops in Tokyo. To check in, you just have to show your pass to one of the officers at the booth next to the card check gates. 
  • Another tip, if you are taking the Hikari bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto or the other way around, make sure to get a seat on the side with 2 seats. This way you will be able to see Mount Fuji. The rows are switched to the direction the train goes, so the 2 seats will always have a view to the volcano. 

The Suica card:

  • This is a rechargeable transport card that you can use for public transport in Tokyo. We also used it to get around in Kyoto and Osaka. We bought one at the same booth where we got out JR passes at the airport. They charge you 500 Yen as a safety deposit. You can re-charge it at the machines on the stations. When you leave, you can return it at one of the machines at the airport and get the money that you still have on the card back. The machine just charges you about 200 Yen as a transaction cost.
  • The Suica card also works on some vending machines and some convenience stores. You can see if they accept it, if you see the logo. 

Payment:

  • Japan is a cash country. Make sure you always have enough cash with you. We could use a credit card in some stores, but most food places we went to were cash only. There are usually ATMs at convenience stores like 7 eleven. We withdrew some cash from our bank at the airport before our flight so we would just have some ready with us. One less thing to do when arriving. 
  • A lot of food shops and stands have a sort of vending machine where you can pick your dishes and pay to the machine. And then you wait to be seated down. So again, have cash with you. And prepare to wait in line, if a place is popular. 
  • In some places, the prices include tax and in some don’t. 

Etiquette:

  • Don’t leave a tip. Japanese believe that service should always be great and can get offended if you tip them. So just don’t. One less thing to calculate!
  • Don’t eat and drink while walking. It is frown upon. It is better to eat next to the shop where you bought your food/drink from, because you can’t find trash cans everywhere.
  • Trash cans: Japan is a very clean country and even though you cannot find that many trash cans on the streets, people don’t litter. If you buy food, you eat it inside (or next to) the shop where you bought it from. We would just find a spot to eat without disturbing traffic. You can more easily dispose of the trash where you bought it from, if the shop doesn’t have one, you can ask a person working there to disposed of it for you.
  • Public toilets are more easily found that trash cans in Japan. They are usually very clean and unlike the Netherlands, they are for free. 
  • Walk on the left side (like the way they drive). If you are on the escalator, keep to your left if you are not in a rush. The right side if for people who walk it.
  • This might be a given but it is just nice to remember. Especially in Tokyo where everywhere is crowded, so if you need to stop to look for directions, etc. Try to step aside, don’t just stop in the middle where there is a lot of people traffic. People are too polite to say something but it is better to not disturb the flow. 
  • Learn a few basic Japanese words. Arigato (thank you) and Oishii (delicious) were our favorite words to use. 
  • Form a line for taking the metro and train.You will see markings on the floor. Even for the escalator, people will form a neat line. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t skip the line. 

Tax free shopping:

  • Some stores offer you a tax refund. But this only works if you have your passport with you. 

TOKYO

Where to eat:

Ichiran Ramen

This is a minimal interaction ramen shop. You choose your ramen from a vending machine. You pay to the machine so make sure to have cash with you. Then you get a little form where you can customize your ramen. And finally, you get seated in your very own little cubicle. You will have a bamboo roll up window blind in front and that’s where your food will come from without you seeing the face of your waiter. You also get your personal water on tap for free. 

Flipper’s (Soufflé pancakes)

This shop specializes in soufflé pancakes. And they were the fluffiest I have ever had. When we were there they had a limited time one that came with strawberry gelato covered in mochi and fresh strawberries. I recommend you to try it if they still have it when you go. 

Sushi No Midori

This restaurant has great sushi for a reasonable price. And it is very popular because of that. It opens at 11am. We were there at around noon and there was already a huge line. 

There is a machine outside of the restaurant (next to the take-out area) where you have to get a ticket with your number before sitting down to wait in line. Don’t forget to get your ticket because at least when we were there, there was no one to tell you that you should get a ticket. A person from the restaurant would come out every so often to call the numbers (with a number board, so don’t worry about the Japanese). If you don’t mind waiting, request to be seated at the bar while you get your number at the machine. It’s a nicer experience to see the chefs preparing your dishes. We paid around 40 euros for the both of us.

Misoya Hachiro Shoten (Ramen)

This ramen shop specializes in tonkotsu (pork bone) and miso based ramen. It was incredible! You also need to pay to a vending machine before sitting down. So again, don’t forget to have cash with you.

Gekko (Mochi)

This is a traditional mochi and tea house. They make the mochi by hand every morning. The restaurant only sits 12 people and they only make a limited amount. Go early if you want to try something specific from their menu. The restaurant opens at noon. We arrived around 2pm on a Sunday and we had to wait in line for about 1 hour. By the time we got seated, there were already quite a few items sold out from the menu. They serve savory and sweet mochi. I would definitely recommend to give it a try. Once thing to keep in mind, they have a sign outside of the door that says that they don’t allow children aged 6 and under inside. I didn’t know why until I posted in on my stories and one of you guys said it was probably a choking hazard. After a little bit of research online, I read that in fact young children and elderly people who cannot chew properly can suffocate if it is not cut down into very small pieces. 

Tonkatsu Maisen 

This restaurant specializes in crispy fried pork cutlet. It was incredibly tender. We had two menu items. Both came with rice and miso soup. We paid about 30 euros for the both of us. 

Itteki Hassenya (Udon noodles)

This shop specializes in udon noodles. Their chicken tempura was also great. I know they offer a lunch especial where you can try two different kinds of udon dishes but we went there for dinner.

Piss alley (Omoide Yokocho)

It’s a small street full of small restaurants and bars. It used to have only one bathroom so the visitors would relieve themselves in the alley, hence the nickname. This is a great place for yakitori (skewered meat). 

Ameyoko Market

This market is full of food stands where you can try anything from sushi, to Chinese dumplings, kebabs, fresh fruit on a stick among other things. We really enjoyed sharing some bites there. 

Tomato (Korean food and BBQ)

It is located in Shin-Okobu which is Tokyo’s Korea Town. The area is worth visiting since it has a lot of street food stands, restaurants and Korean beauty shops. This restaurant offers Korean food and BBQ.

For Coffee or tea:

Blue Bottle 

This was a must stop for us since we had one close to our hotel. Can’t start the day without a good cup of coffee.

Café Kitsuné

Great coffee with some Parisian food

The Alley (Bubble tea)

I loved their brown sugar bubble milk tea and their Aurora series iced tea which was made with butterfly pea flower.

For Street food:

Korean potato corn dog

There are many different stands that sell this popular dish on a stick. We had the one with mozzarella cheese (without the hot dog). It’s pretty impossible to not run into one of these if you are in Tokyo. We always saw a line of teenage girls eating them. Do what the locals do was our motto when it came to street food. We didn’t add any sugar to ours though. 

Popo Hottoku 

This is a stand in Korea Town (Shin-Okobu). They sell Hottoku, which is a sweet Korean pancake. We had the one with honey & cheese, and it was so delicious. We came back on our last day to have it again but we were too late and it was already closed. We did buy the ready to mix box at one of the supermarkets in the same area to try to make it at home.

The Gindaco

They make Takoyaki (mini savory round pancakes stuffed with octopus) and they are located all over Tokyo. 

Eiswelt Gelato 

They serve the cutest ice creams.

Totti Candy factory

They sell the famous rainbow cotton candy.

Pablo 

They serve mini cheese tarts in many flavors. We had the one with sakura mochi and the one with strawberry. So delicious. 

Convenience Stores

There are 7 Eleven and other convenience stores that are open 24 hours pretty much on every street. When we had very early days, we would just grab a sandwich and some onigiri there to have for breakfast. 

Vending machines

There are also vending machines with drinks pretty much on every street. 

About the Cherry blossoms

We were lucky to see some cherry blossom in full bloom while we were in Tokyo. We were a bit too early when we arrived, but on our last day we got lucky. We went to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden because I had read that this park had then most variety of cherry blossom. So you were most likely to see some in full bloom during the season (some kinds bloom earlier and some are late blooms). The park opened at 9am and they charge 500 Yen (about 4 euros) entry fee. Because we knew it is very popular during this time of the year, we arrived at 8:30am and there was already a line. I do advise you to go early if you want to take nice pictures. No alcohol is allowed here.

Purikura (Japanese Photo booth)

These are the popular photo booths where you can edit the pictures to make your eyes look bigger, put filters and stamps on. It is very popular among teenagers and just an overall fun experience if you are in Japan. There are many all over the city. Just search for Purikura on google maps. We went to one located on Takeshita street in Harajuku.

Shopping:

Don Quijote

This is the most popular discount store in Japan. While I wouldn’t call their prices the cheapest (We did see some of the same items cheaper on other random stores that we walked into), it was nice to visit because they have such a huge stock of items. The store has many floors ranging from beauty to electronics, to food and souvenirs. They have many stores all over Tokyo. We literally spent hours there. 

Tokyu Hands

This is a department store. They had a bit of everything from home goods to pet accessories. 

Ito Yokado (supermarket)

We went to the one in Shinjuku because it was the closest to our hotel. It was in a more residential area but we really liked it because it was a proper big supermarket. I love visiting supermarkets abroad not just to buy stuff to bring back home but also to see what the locals buy and eat. 

Where to stay in Tokyo:

We stayed at the Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku. The location was perfect. Just a short walk from Shinjuku station. And they have a bus service to the airport. Our room was small but very clean. We didn’t have breakfast there. We paid around 138 euros per night. 

KYOTO

We found Kyoto very beautiful. Our first stop there was the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest which is open all day. We were lucky that the tram that went directly there was only about a block away from our hotel. We arrived around 8 am and it was already starting to get busy, so taking a nice picture without a crowd was just a waiting game. We saw some couples running towards the end of the forest to take pictures. Towards the end, the path gets a bit more narrow. 

At the end of the bamboo forest, you can just keep walking following the river and end up at % Arabica Kyoto Arashiyama which is a really good coffee shop.

After that we headed towards Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine. Because it was already later in the morning, the crowd here was much larger but we still managed to take some nice pictures if we were just patient enough to wait for the right moment. Going up to the shrine is a really nice walk in nature so we really enjoyed it. By the time we were leaving, we had already worked up an appetite. And luckily enough they have many food stands at the bottom of the shrine. More expensive than street food because it’s a touristy place but the food was still nice. We loved the Mitarashi Dango which is grilled mochi on a stick brushed with a sweet soy sauce glace. 

After that we headed towards the Higashiyama district which is the preserved historic district. It is where you will find a more traditional old Kyoto. The streets are lined with small shops, cafes and restaurants. It was really nice to walk around. But we were there during the middle of the day and it was very crowded.

Where to eat and have coffee:

Omen (Udon)

I loved this Udon restaurant. I had the cold udon with crispy tempura and Pieter had the hot soup noodles with baby shrimp and mackerel sushi.

% Arabica Kyoto Arashiyama (Coffee)

This coffee shop is just a little walk from the end of the bamboo forest if you follow the river. They do offer soy or almond milk which is rare in Japan. 

Where we stayed in Kyoto:

We stayed at Karaksa Hotel Kyoto One. It is a small hotel. Our room was tiny but it was very clean and the service was great. We had a metro stop right across the street and the tram that went directly to the bamboo forest was only a block away. We paid about €85 per night.O

OSAKA

We took the Hikari bullet train from Kyoto to Osaka. It was covered by our JR passes and it only took 15 minutes. We actually came to Osaka because I really wanted to try the famous Rikuro jiggly cheesecake. It is super popular and we had to wait in line to get one. I love cheesecake but I was a bit disappointed with this one. We got one right out of the oven so it was still warm. It was missing something like vanilla for me. It was too eggy in taste and I wasn’t a fan that it was still warm. It wasn’t horrible or anything like that, just not my kind of cheesecake. I’m still happy I got to try it, so at least it is off my list.

After that we just walked a bit around the city and then took the train back to Kyoto where we were staying since Pieter was sick with a cold and we were very tired. So, we didn’t do much else there. 

For more foodie inspiration, travel & lifestyle; you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook. For behind the scenes, more of Amsterdam and a peek of press events, you can follow my Instagram stories and Youtube channel.

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Paris Weekend Guide (where to eat, shop & Instagrammable spots)

A couple of months ago we decided to book a weekend in Paris to just go eat and take a mini break from work. And this past weekend that’s exactly what we did. I took the picture of the Eiffel Tower above from Avenue de Camoens. Also good to know: the tower sparkles every hour on the hour for 5 minutes after sunset.

Here is where we ate:

Café Panache (lunch – dinner)

They serve bistro classics with a twist. We had the crispy chicken club sandwich and the spicy beef tartare for lunch. We arrived Friday afternoon at opening time and we were seated at the bar since we didn’t have a reservation. Reservation advised.

Du Pain et Des Idées (bakery)

I’ve been wanting to try their pistachio escargot pastry for a while and it didn’t disappoint. Plus, it was the size of my face so I just shared one with Pieter. The bakery is only open from Monday to Friday, so if you are only going for a long weekend. Keep that in mind.

Verjus (dinner)

Open from Monday to Friday, they only serve a tasting menu for dinner. It costs €78 and we loved it. The dishes were well executed and service was fast. Reservation is a must.

Buvette (all day)

We came here for breakfast on Saturday. We tried their croque monsieur which came with cornichons. It was delicious. They don’t take reservations.

Frenchie to Go (breakfast – late lunch)

UK and American fast food with a French twist. We came for lunch and had their fish & chips, and buttermilk fried chicken with coleslaw.

Homies

This is a restaurant but we only came here for drinks. We were meeting an old friend of Pieter’s and the bar we were going to go was full. This one was close by and we only had to wait for a little bit to get a table. It turned out to be a nice discovery. It had a really nice atmosphere  and their cocktails were really good.

Pink Mamma (Lunch – dinner)

This Italian restaurant is really popular and they don’t take reservations. We arrived 30 minutes before opening time for lunch and there were already around 8 people waiting in line in the rain. The restaurant has 4 floors and they start sitting you from the top floor down. Since we arrived quite early, we were seated at the top floor. The place is Instagram heaven and the top floor has a glass roof, so perfect to take pictures with natural light. The food was delicious and the service was quite fast and friendly. Pieter had the Bruschetta tartare style and the Regina Instagram pizza with burrata. I had my love for truffle satisfied with the Arancino al tartufo and their in-house made pasta with truffle. All the dishes were reasonably priced.

Four seasons Hotel George V Christmas Pop Up (everyday till January 7th 2019)

We stopped at this pop up to try their famous caramelized pain au chocolat and it was incredible! I’m still dreaming about it.

Pierre Hermé (various shops around the city)

No trip to Paris is complete for me without stopping here. I love their macarons and they change seasonally.

Where to shop:

Merci: Concept store with very nice brands and their Insta famous red car.

La Grande Épicerie de Paris: Upscale supermarket and specialty store

Le Bon Marche: Department store

Galeries Lafayette: Department store. You can get a nice view of the city from their rooftop terrace.

Sephora: If you have it in your country, you will probably not be interested. But I love makeup and Sephora is no longer in NL. So whenever I travel to a country that has it, it’s a mandatory stop for me. They have many locations in Paris.

Other Instagrammable spots (these pictures are from my trip last year):

Trocadero

Rue Crémieux. Most likely Paris most colourful street. It reminds me of London.

La Maison Rose in Montmartre

Also good to know:

Paris is a big city and you should be careful of pick pockets. Even though I had heard about them, and they do announce on the speakers of the metro to be careful, I had never seen it happening until this last trip. This happened while we were on the metro. As a group of lady tourists were getting off at one stop  and a group of kids (around 17 years old) were getting in, there was some pushing and yelling. At first we didn’t know what was going on. Until one of the lady tourists wanted to get back in the metro and the kids stood by the door forming a wall to not let her back in. That’s when the lady yelled: Pick Pocket. Only then we realised that they were not just kids, they were a gang. Once the metro departed, I was pretty scared of the whole situation since they were still blocking the door. The guy next to us started taking pictures of the gang, they noticed and started harassing him. Luckily the gang just got off at the next stop. This by no means should discourage you to visit this beautiful city. I am just mentioning this so you can be aware of at least one of their tricks to create confusion and steal. It is always good to be vigilant.

For more foodie inspiration, travel & lifestyle; you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook. For behind the scenes, more of Amsterdam and a peek of press events, you can follow my Instagram stories and Youtube channel.

 

 

 

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A Day at Walt Disney World Orlando

I have very fond memories of the Disney World parks in Orlando. I used to go there on vacation with my parents as a kid. It’s been 15 years since my last visit and this was Pieter’s first time at any of the Disney parks. So, we were both pretty excited to be there. We had one day-hopper tickets which meant we could visit all 4 theme parks in one day. We originally wanted to end the day at Magic Kingdom in order to watch the fireworks show at the end. But the day we went, they had an especial Halloween show which meant no fireworks. We decided to start at Magic Kingdom instead.

We arrived bout 15 minutes before the park opened. I do recommend to try to go on a weekday if you can, and arriving a bit before the park opens. Then you can go straight to the most popular attraction that you want to go to, and can skip the lines. After buying some souvenirs and taking a mandatory picture in front of Cinderella’s castle, we headed straight towards space mountain. I had forgotten how much fun rollercoasters are. We got some pineapple Dole Whip at Aloha Isle, which was very welcome since it was scorching hot that day. We also grabbed a Mickey pretzel with cheese sauce.

We then took the bus towards Disney’s Hollywood studios and headed straight towards the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

We were too late to book a fast pass for this, so we waited about an hour in line. It was well worth it though. This was both our favorite ride that day. Then we went to Aerosmith’s rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. This was so much fun and we only waited in line for about 10 minutes. We had a corn dog and then took another bus towards Epcot center.

There was a Food & Wine festival at Epcot so we grabbed some bites to eat at a few stands.

Then I had some shaved ice at the Japan Pavilion. We had some funnel cake with powdered sugar. This was so good and I haven’t had it in ages. We walked through the rest of the countries and then finished it off by going on Mission Space.

We had an amazing day at Disney and loved going to the thrill rides.

For more foodie inspiration, travel & lifestyle; you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook. For behind the scenes, more of Amsterdam and a peek of press events, you can follow my Instagram stories and Youtube channel.

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A Guide to the Tulip Fields in the Netherlands

It’s only since I moved to the Netherlands that I get so excited about spring. I’ve always liked spring, it’s warmer and it means that summer is coming. But we don’t have these kinds of flowers fields in Peru.

The famous Keukenhof gardens are gorgeous don’t get me wrong. I’ve been there twice and I’ve really enjoyed it. But it’s the endless sea of flowers in the fields that take my breath away every time. The tulip season is around mid-April to early May. When to go is a bit tricky since it is very weather dependent. But I think late April is usually best, especially if you are coming from abroad and planning this trip in advance. I always check the geo tags in Lisse in April to keep an eye for when the tulips start to bloom. This year we were also lucky that a colleague of Pieter, who lives in Lisse, was keeping an eye on the fields for us. She told us to go on the weekend of the 21st of April.

Lisse and its surroundings (Noordwijkerhout)

By bike:

For the first few years, we went to see the fields by bike. We would take the train from Amsterdam to Hillegom Station and take our bikes with us. We would take the train from Sloterdijk Station with a change in Haarlem. It takes about 25-30 minutes in total. You can also take it from Central station. It’s the same route just one stop before the one we take. If you bring your bike, don’t forget to pay the extra fee when you buy your ticket or load the fee on your transport card. Keep in mind that the train station in Hillegom is very small. It is more a stop than a station, so no bike rentals there. You can always rent a bike in Amsterdam.

You can check 9292.nl to plan your train ride. It is also in English. They also have an app which you can download into your phone.

I still remember getting off the train and you are immediately welcomed by the scent of the Hyacinth fields. From there we would just bike towards Lisse (using google maps) and from then on just get lost. We usually see google maps on satellite, there you can see which areas are fields. And you can use that as reference.

By car:

In the past couples of years, we’ve been visiting the fields by car. Just so we could cover more ground in less time. Depending on the time you go, some fields might already be cut down and in some the flowers may not be open yet. Which means you need to keep exploring, which by car is much easier and faster than biking. It takes about 30 minutes to get there from Amsterdam.

Flevoland Tulip route:

Lisse is not the only area in the Netherlands with flower fields. It is definitely the most popular and touristy, but Flevoland (north east of Amsterdam) also has gorgeous fields. We even saw much larger ones here than in Lisse. This year we also visited the area of Dronten in Flevoland. On their website, there is a walking, biking and car route. You can see them here. But since we went later in the season we decided to rent a car again. And we were happy we did because the distances between the fields were longer. The drive there is only about 1 hour. Once we were in Dronten, we drove around for around 3 hours and found some gorgeous fields and hardly any people. It might also had to do with the fact that it rained that day but still we didn’t see any tourist buses like when we visit the area of Lisse.

There are also flower fields where you can actually pick your own bouquet. I wrote about one of them here.

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A weekend in Vienna at 25Hours Hotel MuseumsQuartier

Vienna has been on my list for a while. So when Pieter got a birthday party invitation, we booked our tickets. We thought it would be a good excuse to visit, since both of us had never been. We stayed at the 25Hours Hotel at the Museum Quarter.

We arrived Friday morning and took the CAT train which takes about 17 minutes to get to the center of Vienna. From there we took the metro, and after a few stops we arrived at our destination. The hotel has a good connection, so it was just a short walk away.

We arrived quite early and our room wasn’t ready yet, so we decided to take a mini road trip. We had read that the Wachau Valley was beautiful and it was only 1.5 hours drive from Vienna. The hotel has a collaboration with MINI and they offer guests a car to rent out for free. It’s on a first come, first serve basis but when we arrived they still had one left. So we decided to take it and drive there for a bit since the weather was beautiful. The scenery was definitely pretty, we just thought that it would have been better to visit in late spring, or fall. We saw a few trees with blossoms but other than that they trees didn’t have any leaves yet.

25hours hotel Vienna

By the time we came back, our room was ready. This hotel is very hip, unlike some places in Vienna which are more traditional. The cool décor makes you feel more relaxed. For breakfast they offer a nice buffet selection with different breads, eggs, charcuterie and sausage. I really liked käsekrainer, a sausage stuffed with cheese. We ate so many of these while we were there.

The next day we went to the rooftop bar. We wanted to grab a drink and chill before heading to our friend’s birthday. Pieter had a mojito and I had a mocktail. Both were really good. We also ordered some bites. On the way to the birthday party we found these gorgeous Cherry blossom trees at Hofmühlgasse.

On our last day we decided to grab some burgers at their food truck on the terrace. The burgers were delicious and so were the fries. I had the sweet potato ones and Pieter ordered the ones with Parmesan and rosemary.

You can tell that the burger truck and bar are popular among the locals. We were there when they opened, and it got very busy within half an hour. Besides a good public transport connection, the hotel is also walking distance to the Naschmarkt. We walked there on Saturday and it is definitely a must stop, especially if you like food. You can find there many restaurant stalls, fresh produce, spices and second-hand items. I bought some spices, edible dried flowers and a cute straw bag there.

I would definitely recommend this hotel if you are in Vienna.

25Hours Hotel Vienna
Lerchenfelder Straße 1-3
1070 Vienna

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A day In the Exumas (swimming with pigs and nurse sharks in the Bahamas)

Last month we took a little winter break and flew to the Bahamas. And we couldn’t leave without visiting the famous swimming pigs.

We took a powerboat tour from Nassau to the Exuma islands to see them. Even though the pigs are wild, they are so used to tourists feeding them that the big ones will come swimming to the boat asking for food. It was really nice to be able to see them in person and swim with them.

Part of the tour also involved visiting the nurse sharks at Compass Cay. I am super scared of sharks and even though these are bottom dwellers, they still have teeth. The tour guide just told us to be cautious and to not try to touch them close to their mouths. I was very nervous at first but I’m really happy that I didn’t chicken out. Once we were in the water, it was fine. It was a really cool experience being in the water with them.



Overall we loved this day trip. We had a lot of fun and all the beaches that we saw in the Exumas were a little piece of paradise.

A few tips to keep in mind if you take one of the power boat tours from Nassau:

If you want to see the famous pigs, they live at Big Major Cay (Pig Beach). Because the pigs draw a lot of tourists, there are other beaches which now also have pigs. If you want to see the (so to say) original pig beach, make sure your tour stops at Big Major Cay.

The boat ride is a bit bumpy and wet. Since they have to cover quite a distance to get to the Exumas, they go really fast. They tell you to bring a light sweater or jacket, which we did. And it’s fine if you are sitting in the middle and don’t get wet. But I think it’s better to bring a raincoat (or even a poncho). if you get wet on the way back which takes more than 1 hour, it gets cold. Pieter sat next to the edge of the boat and got soaked (and cold). And definitely bring sunglasses otherwise it is very hard to open up your eyes when the boat is going so fast.

It does get very crowded. So if you want to avoid being with a lot of people and to be able to take better pictures, it’s worth looking into renting a private charter and arriving early in the morning. Here is a very short video of Big Major Cay, so you can get an impression of what it looks like.

Swimming pigs in the Bahamas

For more foodie inspiration, travel & lifestyle; you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook. For behind the scenes, more of Amsterdam and a peek of press events, you can follow my Instagram stories and Youtube channel.

 

 

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Venice in the Fall

I’ve dreamed of going to Venice since I was a little kid. And finally in late November we did. For two days we just got lost through little streets and just wandered around. We ate artisanal gelato at Suso.

We went to T Fondaco dei Tedeschi, a department store close to the Rialto bridge. It has a roof terrace where you can get a view of the Grand Canal.

We visited Libreria Acqua Alta. A peculiar library where the books are piled up in the walls, a bathtub and a gondola. They are even used as stairs that overlook the canal in the back. I read that this library is home to some cats, unfortunately we didn’t run into any kitties.


We had an amazing lunch at Osteria Alla Staffa (thank you Jen for the tip). Not only was the food delicious, the prices were also very reasonable.

We also took a boat to visit the Island of Burano. A fisherman’s Island known for its colorful houses. It was definitely worth the trip. We were thinking of visiting Murano too but the weather got worse, so we decided to just head back to Venice.

We stayed at the NH Palazzo Barocci. We had the junior suit with a view. And what a spectacular view it was. We arrived at night so we couldn’t see much, but the next morning we opened the doors to the balcony to see a gorgeous view of the Grand Canal and the Rialto bridge. The hotel has a great location, as one of the boat stops (Vaporetto) was right outside.

 

For more foodie inspiration, travel & lifestyle; you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook. For behind the scenes, more of Amsterdam and a peek of press events, you can follow my Instagram stories and Youtube channel.

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A Magical Weekend in Western Germany (Burg Eltz, Cochem, Schloss Drachenburg & Monschau)

I had read that fall was a beautiful time to visit the castles in Germany, so I was really looking forward to this season just for that. We rented a car for only two days to drive to there. The weather on Saturday was not ideal as it started raining quite hard by the time we arrived in Germany. Our first stop was Eltz Castle, about 4 hours from Amsterdam. Since the weather was dreadful, we parked the car and got in the shuttle bus (2 euros per person, per ride). In about 2 minutes, we arrived at the castle. It was really magical to see it tucked away in the forest.

After that we drove to Cochem. The ride took us about 35 minutes. This is a very pretty town along the Mosel River. We drove up a very steep and narrow road to get to the castle. Mosel is one of Germany’s wine region and this castle was surrounded by vineyards. We were planning on exploring a bit more here but the weather got worse so we decided to drive to Bonn and have dinner there, since we were going to spend the night there anyways.

The next morning we drove to the Dragon Castle (Schloss Drachenburg). The ride was around 30 minutes. On our drive, we caught a glimpse of the silhouette of the castle in the mountains.

There is parking lot close by where you can leave your car and then you have to walk up the forest for about 10 minutes to get to the castle. Tip: We got there 1 hour before the castle opened and we found a few parking spots a lot closer to the castle. Instead of parking your car at the parking lot, follow the road to the forest (it’s at the end of the parking lot). Following the path that leads to the castle, there were a few cafes and also a couple of parking spaces. So if you don’t want to walk, be there early. Otherwise you can also take a tram. On this day we were lucky with the weather as it was dry and very sunny. It costs 7 euros to go to the castle premises. This one really looked like it came out of an animated Disney movie and it has a beautiful view of the Rhine river.

Once we were done exploring there, we hopped into the car and drove to Monschau which was just 1 ½ hours away. Monschau is a town close to the Belgian border, sort of in the way back home for us. That’s why we left it for last. We were not sure if we would have time to stop there, but we are so happy we did. It is such a picturesque place with half-timbered houses and narrow streets. We only stayed there for a few hours but that was enough time to explore its medieval center. We really enjoyed this mini road trip and can’t wait to return to Germany and explore more.

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Annecy

About a week ago we went to Annecy (France). The closest Airport was in Geneva, so that’s where we flew to. After arriving in Geneva, we rented a car and drove to Annecy. The drive was about 30 minutes long and the scenery was beautiful. Renting a car was the right decision for us, as it kept us flexible and it allowed us to explore more of the surrounding areas. We were very lucky with the weather; the whole weekend was sunny.

Annecy is called the Venice of the Alps for a reason. The canals running through the city have crystal clear water. And with swans floating around, it looked like a fairy tale town. We arrived Friday morning at our hotel. We stayed at the Atipik Hotel Alexandra. It has a great location, right next to the old town. The staff was very friendly, the rooms were clean and the breakfast was good.

We walked a bit through the old part of the city, grabbed a sandwich with raclette and went to explore the lake. You can rent a bike (either normal or electric) and bike along the lake which takes about 2 hours. We were so tired because we got up at 3:30am to catch our flight that we decided to do it by car. Our first stop was the Chateau de Duingt. The castle is privately owned so you can’t go inside but we took out the drone and got an aerial view of it.

Then we drove to Chateau de Menthon – Saint Bernard. They say that Disney was inspired by this castle. Unfortunately for us, it was closed when we arrived.

We really enjoyed driving around the lake and getting lost in the roads around it. We ended up in Col de la Forclaz. On one side you could view the lake and on the other the mountains. It was so beautiful, especially this time of the year because of all the fall colors.

For dinner we went to L’Etage. Pieter ordered a raclette. I had some escargot and seared tuna. We didn’t do any fancy dining this time. But if you are looking for a more upscale dining experience, I would recommend Clos des Sens. I lived in Lyon for a few months while I was taking a cooking course at the Paul Bocuse Institute. During my time there, I went to Annecy with some friends to have lunch there and I loved it. This restaurant has 2 Michelin stars.

The next day there was a festival in town called Le Retour des Alpages. A tradition where they celebrate bringing the cattle back to the farms after grazing in the mountains during the summer months. They were stands everywhere with food and local products.

We got some pastries at Philippe Rigollot. The pastry chef is a MOF (best craftsman of France in English). If you are not familiar with it, it is a very prestigious award in France. It was hard to choose as they all looked so delicious.

We had some ice cream at Glacier des Alpes. We had to wait in line for it but it was worth it. And the lady working there was so nice, she gave me an extra scoop for free.

We snacked so much throughout the day that we were not hungry for dinner. At one of the festival stands, we had tartiflette for the first time. It is a local dish made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, bacon and onions. Needless to say we devoured the whole thing. We also bought a few baguettes at one of the stands and even though they were good. The best ones we had were from a bakery called Boulangerie Artisanale Marmillon, located in the old center.

On our last day, we gathered some food at the farmer’s market and drove to the lake to have a picnic for lunch. A great way to say goodbye to this wonderful region.

For more foodie inspiration, travel & lifestyle; you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook. For behind the scenes, more of Amsterdam and a peek of press events, you can follow my Instagram stories and Youtube channel.

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