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.

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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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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Logroño & Bilbao (Northern Spain) Photo Diary

Last week I was in Spain for 3 days. I had a direct flight from Amsterdam to Bilbao airport and after a 1.5 hour drive, I was in Logroño (the capital of the Rioja province). A very small but charming town. We explored the city during the siesta (afternoon), which was great because the streets were not crowded.

That night, we went on a Tapas tour. We were told that each bar specializes in one kind of tapa and that is what they are known for. We went to a lot and I don’t remember the names of them all, except for these ones: El soldado de tudelilla for their tomato salad and Bar Soriano for their garlicky mushrooms. We also had some piparras, fried peppers similar to shishito peppers. They are just fried in olive oil and then sprinkled with sea salt. Some are spicy and some are not. So fun to eat with a group. If you like crispy pork, look for a bar that sells cecina.

The next day we visited the Campo Viejo vineyard and had some paella for lunch there.

    

That afternoon, we headed back to Bilbao and visited the Guggenheim museum. After the tour we had dinner at Nerua, the 1 Michelin star restaurant located at the museum. The food was amazing. Simple and delicate dishes, but very well executed.

The next morning, we had a little tour of the Mercado de la Ribera (market). You can have some tapas there. I bought some piparras (chilies) to bring back home. After that, we had a private tapas workshop at Los Fueros (Bilbao’s oldest restaurant).

    

The picture below is from the chilies I took back home. I’m so hooked that I am going to try to find them here, or at least something similar.

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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Kupu Kupu Phangan Beach Villas and Spa by L’Occitane

 

Coming back to our trip to Thailand, from Koh Samui we took the fast ferry to the island of Ko Pha Ngan. There we stayed at Kupu Kupu Phangan Beach Villas and Spa by L’Occitane. The resort is located on the west side of the island. It is about a 10 minute ride from Thong Sala, which is great because you can just rent a scooter and go visit the night market. The big street market is only open on Saturdays. But throughout the week, there is a smaller market which still has plenty of food stands to choose from.

We stayed at one of their Sea view pool villas. The picture below was the view from ours. The resort is small and cozy, so no need to walk a lot to use the facilities.

The beach is surrounded by a few rocks which are easier to climb on low tide (nice for pictures 😉 ).

The resort has one restaurant called the Plage. We had lunch at one of their tables in the pool. Their grilled watermelon salad was so delicious, not to mention also very pretty.
We also had a tuna & scallop tartare which was also very good. We also tried their Thai set dinner. It was already too dark to take proper pictures, but we really enjoyed their 3 course menu. And actually their deep fried pork with garlic and pepper was the best one we had during our trip. We liked it so much that we ordered the same dish at other places later on, and none were as good as the one we had here. We also had a couple’s massage at their Spa. Pieter actually fell asleep during it. So nice to just let go and relax completely. The whole staff was very friendly and attentive. We were very pleased with our stay!

For more foodie inspiration, 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.

 

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InterContinental Samui Resort

Pieter and I went to Thailand last month and we stayed at the Intercontinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Resort in Koh Samui. This resort was included in the “1,000 Places to see before you die book”. So we knew we were in for a treat. The resort is situated among different levels of a cliff, so you can choose to move by golf car (you just have to make a call and they will pick you up) or you can be sporty and use the stairs. The stairs are nice because everything around you is green and they also have a hanging bridge.

We stayed at one of their Club beachfront Pool Villas which was incredible. Each villa has private garden and pool with sea view, as the name describes. The bathroom had a Jacuzzi and two showers (one outdoors).

The bed was very comfortable (100% Egyptian cotton sheets). Because of our jetlag, afternoon naps were mandatory. The WiFi was very good throughout the resort. I was quite surprised that I was able to do a Live Instagram story from the pier. I didn’t think I would have internet that far away but I did.

The resort is located on the west coast of the island and their Air Bar is a famous spot to view the sunset. We had some cocktails there, eagerly waiting for the sunset but unfortunately we were unlucky with the weather, as we got rain around that time on both days. But luckily the rain didn’t last very long.

The breakfast at Amber was great. It had a very large variety of dishes to choose from. From classic breakfast items, like pancakes, waffles and cereals.  To a noodle bar where you could choose your kind of noodle plus toppings. And they also served dumplings, curry, fresh fruit and juices. They had me at noodles and dumplings.

We also had dinner in the same restaurant because that night, they had World of Siam. A buffet-styled Thai dinner. We both loved it. We had the coconut soup. There was a make your own green papaya salad bar, so of course I had to make one. If you follow my Instagram stories, you probably saw that I was eating green papaya salad twice a day throughout our whole trip. They also served different kind of stir-fries, seafood and of course, a large selection of Thai desserts. I loved the fried banana and sticky rice with mango.

On our last day we got a couple’s massage at their Baan Thai Spa. Our masseuses were superb. They really went hard on us, on request. We were very hectic prior to this trip, so we were very happy to have someone work on all the stress accumulated in our shoulders.

One of the things that drew me to this hotel was their main infinity pool, located next to their bar.

Because from one side you overlook a coconut plantation and from the other, you overlook the sea. So beautiful and romantic! They also have another infinity pool next to the beach and 5 other ones along the cliff-side. The ones cliff-side have different colors (yellow, orange, blue, red and purple), which represent the different palette of colors of the sky during the day and night.

Overall we had a great experience. The service was outstanding and the location was dreamy.

For more foodie inspiration, 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.

 

 

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London Baby!

Pieter and I went to London for a weekend at the beginning of the month. I was super excited as it was my first time, plus I had heard so many good things about the food scene over there. And sure did we eat well. I wish we could have stayed longer. I had so many places on my excel sheet (yes, I like to be organized when I travel) but 3 days was just too short.

We stayed at a very nice Apart hotel called Leman Locke which was walking distance from the Aldgate metro station in East London.

We started off with bubble waffles at a stand called Nosteagia. The first night we walked through Leicester Square and went to Shake Shack. I’ve seen pictures of their burgers on Instagram and really wanted to try them. They were really good! The next morning we woke up very early to go to Notting Hill. I really wanted to see all the beautiful and colorful houses there. 

The most popular being on St. Luke’s Mews, where Love Actually was shot. So we walked a bit through this neighborhood and ended up having breakfast at Farm Girl. A very cozy and healthy café on Portobello Road. We had the Rose Latte, avocado roast with a poached egg and the buckwheat berry pancakes with amber maple syrup, cranberries and hibiscus. We were surprised on how fast our order came out. It was very busy on a Saturday morning and they still got our order out in no time plus our waiter was very friendly.

After that we went to Maître Choux. The shop is eye candy with all the eclairs on display. They were also delicious by the way. And the eating tour didn’t stop there. Next on the list was Dominique Ansel’s bakery. We shared one Cronut and one of their frozen S’mores. The Cronut was great but if it wasn’t because I was stuffed, I would have ordered another S’more. That chewy marshmallow with Tahitian Vanilla ice cream was heavenly!

And then it was time for lunch. We headed to Breddos tacos.

A nice taqueria in Clerkenwell. We had the Kung Pao pork belly, the sweet potato and cochinita pibil tacos. Plus an octopus tostada, queso fundido and agua frescas. Those chili sauces they give you with tortillas at the beginning were exactly my cup of tea. If you want to go, try to arrive early. By the time we were done eating there was a line outside.

After all the eating we headed towards Westminster Bridge to get a glimpse of Big Ben. After getting up so early and doing quite a lot of walking and eating, we decided to go back to the hotel to chill a bit before meeting some friends for dinner.

We met them at Rosa’s Thai Café. Both Pieter and I love Thai food. Both our friends highly recommended this place and since Punky is Thai and her husband Jeroen lived in Thailand for a while, we trusted them. And it was good! We had the calamari, salmon red curry, papaya salad, grilled spicy sausages, stir-fried aubergine and rice. Thinking about it makes me salivate. It was too dark to take pictures but we enjoyed every single dish. They have 7 locations in London so it is worth a visit. Walking back to our hotel, we stumbled across St. John. A restaurant I have been wanting to visit ever since I saw it on one of Anthony Bourdain’s show years ago. So we decided to go in for just a quick bite. I must say that I am very lucky to have a husband who enjoys eating as much as I do, and who said: “We are here now, so let’s just go in”, when I saw it. We sat at the bar, shared the pudding and the very famous roasted bone marrow with parsley salad. Well worth stretching our stomachs a bit more.

On our last day, we decided to visit Neal’s yard. The place is exploding with colors. Since we were there quite early, the shops were not open yet. But we got some nice pictures without other people which was also nice.

For breakfast we went to Caravan Restaurants (the one on Bankside).We had the kimchi pancake with pork belly, gochujang ketchup & sunny duck egg. And the salt beef brisket hash, pickled cucumber & poached eggs with hollandaise. The food and service was great.

Afterwards, we met our friend Jeroen again at Liberty London. It was great to get a little tour of the city from a local.

 

After the tour we headed to Chinatown for some ice cream. I was looking forward to trying the Taiyaki ice cream from Chinatown Bakery.

 

Afterwards we walked to Milk Train café for some more ice cream. Their soft serve ice cream comes with a cloud of cotton candy, so of course I had to try it (Thank you to Frank for the recommendation).

I had the black sesame one and it was divine! We then headed to a pub to finally sit down and have some lunch before catching our plane back to Amsterdam. A few metro stations were close and since we were worried about time, we decided to just take a cab back to the airport. Like usual I feel asleep during the ride but woke up to a pink sky close to the airport. We left with our feet hurting but with happy bellies and new memories. With a flight of under an hour from Amsterdam, I hope we can go back soon. London, you were awesome!

 

For more foodie inspiration, 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 my Snapchat: cravingsinams.

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Barcelona

Pieter and I went to Barcelona for a weekend in August. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect! Even though we were in the city, we wanted to also chill a bit. So we spent a whole day just soaking up the sun and swimming in the pool of our hotel. We stayed at the gorgeous Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I. You can see my review of the hotel here.

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Because of the heat, we had no choice but to have as many ice creams as we could to cool down. We started by paying Amorino a visit. It had been ages since I last had one of their ice creams. It didn’t hurt that besides being delicious, they are gorgeous (very Instagramable) and they have a few locations in the city.

We also made a mandatory stop at the Boqueria market. We indulged in juices, fresh fruit and of course Jamón ibérico. Another reason why I love this market is because in their large variety of products that they offer, there is a little stand that has Peruvian products. So of course, it was heaven for me.

El Nacional is a nice place to have some bites or a full meal. A friend of mine recommended it to me. If you are ever in Barcelona it’s worth a visit. The restaurant has 4 different areas where you can enjoy different kinds of food. From tapas to meats, to a large bar in the middle.

We went there a couple of hours before closing time so it was already too dark for taking pictures, but we really enjoyed everything we ordered. The lady serving us was very kind and attentive. And if you go, don’t forget to check out their bathroom.

Peruvian food still needs to become a thing here in the Netherlands but when I found out that Barcelona had a Tanta restaurant, I was eager to go try it out. Tanta is a Peruvian restaurant that we always visit when we are in Lima. It was a mini trip to Peru in one sitting. The chicha morada, ceviche and leche de tigre were on point.

Besides a couple of trips to Amorino, we also tried the ice creams at Rocambolesc. An artisanal ice cream shop by the Roca brothers (El Celler de Can Roca). They serve innovative flavors of soft serve with many toppings to choose from and fun looking popsicles.

While strolling through the gorgeous Passatge Sert in El Born, we made a little stop to get our caffeine kick at Nømad Coffee. We had a really good cappuccino there. Got some cold brew for on the go and brought some coffee beans back home with us.

For more foodie inspiration, 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 my Snapchat: cravingsinams.

 

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Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I (Barcelona)

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Pieter and I went to Barcelona for a long weekend and stayed at the Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I. City trips can be very exhausting. At least for us, they always are. We always pack our schedule with lots to do and see, and by the time we come back home we feel like we need a week to recover. This time we wanted to chill a bit more. And that’s why we chose this hotel. It’s like a resort in the city. We spent a whole day just lounging and swimming in the pool, enjoying the Spanish heat.

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The hotel is located at the Av. Diagonal. It is just a few blocks from public transportation, and the metro has a direct connection to the airport. There are two shopping centers (with supermarkets) just a few tram stops away.

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The architectural design of the hotel is stunning. The marble tables at the lobby give it a chic feel. They are still refurbishing the rooms (will be finished by July 2017). We booked a refurbished deluxe room. A nice size room, spacious enough for 2 people and with a beautiful view of the city.

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We had dinner at the Terrace on our first night there.

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It is located in the hotel gardens next to one of the swimming pools. Their menu consists of local tapas and dishes cooked on a wood-fired grill. It was the first time we ever tried salmorejo, a cold puree made from tomatoes and bread. Super simple but so delicious!

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After some tapas, we ordered some meats on the grill while drinking some beers. Our mini holiday had begun!

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The main pool has a bar and restaurant. They also have a Veuve Clicquot Lounge, so you can enjoy some bubbly poolside.

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Overall we had a lovely experience at the Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I. The facilities were great and service was amazing, especially from the people at the Terrace who were super attentive and quick to bring our order.

For more foodie inspiration, 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 my Snapchat: cravingsinams.

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