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Travel and Lifestyle Blog - A World of Art, Architecture, Culture, History, Gastronomy, Lifestyle and Adventure.

Updated: 2017-12-17T02:08:35.035+01:00


Photos of the Amsterdam Gay Pride Canal Parade 2017


These photos are a bit late but better late than never =)

The Amsterdam Gay Pride Canal Parade is a yearly event held in the summer usually on the first Saturday of August.

I think it is a unique event for the Gay Pride movement because most of the parade events around the world happen on the streets, but in Amsterdam, the LGBT's strut their stuff on board boats and floats. The whole setting is grand, fun, special and unique.

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Best Balkan Trip Meal: Seafood Platter at Lacroma Restaurant on Lokrum Island


I am not joking. Bubbles and I swear on this meal.

Mouthwatering -devour me now- lunch in Lokrum Island.

We are enjoying these lemon beers =)

Our delicious lunch at Lacroma Restaurant (LR) on Lokrum Island in Dubrovnik, Croatia was the best ever meal in our Balkan road trip last April. We cannot really think of another meal that can come that close to this. Seriously.

Hats off to the chef! I am even getting hungry now as I write this!

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Lokrum Island (Croatia): Nature Spots Photo Essay


Pictures speak a thousand words!

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Lokrum Island (Croatia): Benedictine Abbey Ruins, Annunciation Church and Game of Thrones


April is not the best time to visit Dubrovnik if the intention is to visit the outlying islands. It’s still a bit cold and you will not be able to swim. May perhaps is much better.

The Benedictine Abbey ruins in Lokrum Island.

In the boat going to Lokrum Island and leaving Dubrovnik behind.

But Bubbles and I wanted to see something else while in Dubrovnik and based on my readings online, the nearest and easiest to reach the island from Dubrovnik old town is Lokrum. When we arrived, we right away investigate on how we are going to buy the boat tickets. We learned that we can just buy them onsite at the harbour before leaving. But to make sure, we bought the tickets a day ahead.

We were quite excited about this little side trip because it’s new and different. It gives our road trip a different angle as we are taking a boat to an island.

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Visiting the Royal Deft: Delfts Blauw, De Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles


If you are going to imitate something, then you better do it well. Or perhaps, better?

That’s the story in a nutshell with Royal Delft in the Netherlands, the porcelain company (Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles) with roots going back to the second half of the 16th century.

The Royal Delft Museum and Factory for the 'Royal Delft Experience' tour.

The Dutch weren’t the inventors of blue pottery. They learned this skill from Italian potters and copied Chinese-style porcelain brought back by Dutch seamen from the Far East through the Dutch East India Company (VOC – Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie), which by the way is the first publicly traded company in the world.

If there is another thing than trade that the Dutch did was good, that would have to be being master imitators of porcelain ware. Demand for blue porcelain skyrocketed and before long enough business was doing very well that the company made investments of more than 32 factories in Delft and a number in Amsterdam, Haarlem, and Middelburg.

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Delft, Netherlands: The Market Square and Lunch at Het Konings Huys


My long-time friend, Bubbles wanted to visit a city in the Netherlands that she hasn't been to. Well, that's going to be an easy task for me as there's a n abundance of pretty little Dutch cities. Most of them in fact I have already visited in my 15 years of living in the Netherlands.

Lunch on the Markt at the Het Konings Huys.

Bubbles had a few cities in mind but because we do not have the luxury of time, she has to choose only 1 Dutch city to visit. We have planned a whole month of trips for April. A road trip in the Balkans, a city trip to Dresden (Germany) and Antwerp (Belgium), as well as side trips to Amsterdam, the flower fields and around Utrecht.

Bubbles picked Delft. For some reason, she has read good things about the city and saw nice pictures.

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My Daily Life in the Netherlands #004


The main update for this daily life series is the good news that we bought a new house! Yup, last October was the big day when we signed the papers =)

This is the showroom of our (house/project) contractor.

Moi standing in front of the future house. The ground has now been prepared and the official building starts on the 1st of December with a little party onsite of course. 

The building of the new house will start next month, that's less than 2 weeks from now and we are kind of excited. Construction will approximately take a year and the Dutchman and I have been very busy, spending long nights and pouring over on floor plans and schedules, researching building materials and visiting many showrooms. We have been driving all over the place. In fact, I took 3 days off just to do all this, what I call, building a house orientation. There's a lot to be done!

You'll hear more of the house as construction progresses =)

The other main thing that happened in October was my new car being broken into by thieves. I was pretty shaken when I saw the shattered glass in the parking area and to see the driver's seat and steering wheel in disarray. Because the thieves were amateurs, they were not able to steal the whole steering wheel and airbag. Unfortunately, Audi's (as well as BMW's and VW's) are very popular with thieves here in Western Europe.

Work is doing well but I don't really talk about that here on the blog.

On the family side, we are on the birthday season roll so every other weekend, Dutchman and I visit family and I get to eat cake, hehe. It helps that the Dutch sisters-in-law always make my favourite tart, the Monchou tart.

On other news, I met up with a few old colleagues for lunch dates. Networking as they say, but nonetheless, it's always great to catch up with old familiar faces.

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Helenaheuvel - Kaapse Bossen Walk in Utrecht


Dutchman and I love long walks, be it in the forest, mountains, fields or valleys. Unfortunately, we live in very flat Netherlands so there’s very little to imagine when it comes to the landscape.

The start of the Kaapse Bossen walking route from Helenaheuvel.

Our favourite weekend activity, that is if we have the time and the weather is cooperating, would be a walk in the forest and then sit on a café terrace or restaurant afterwards for some tea. It is a bit of a tradition for us, especially during the autumn months.

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Burek Breakfast in Dubvronik, Croatia


I learned about ‘Burek’ when I did a road trip in Croatia and Slovenia several years back.

It was in Zagreb that I tasted my first burek but it wasn’t very impressive at all. The pastry was dry and pretty hard and I could not even identify if there was meat in it. I am sure it was a bakery issue and I am not going to tarnish burek’s name in the Balkans because of this one isolated event.

Burek with meat and goat's cheese filling.

In this recent Balkan road trip (Bosnia & Hercegovina – Croatia – Montenegro), Bubbles and I had our first burek in Dubrovnik. We don’t really plan which country, city and which place to eat certain local specialities, some of the things just happened spontaneously.

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Surviving a Rainy Day in Dubrovnik


Sometimes we do not always have all the luck in the world.

On our first day in Dubrovnik, we were rained down, but the weather was considerate enough not to rain on our welcome parade. Not when we arrived. It waited until we were able to check in to our room, enjoy a very late lunch, and move the rental car to a public parking garage.

The wet streets after the rain aftermath.

Dubrovnik old town is pedestrianized and vehicle free, and the nearest parking we could find was at the Hilton Hotel. The hourly prices here at Hilton could easily rival with western European parking prices but we didn’t have a choice since the nearest and more reasonably priced public garage is more than a kilometre away. No way Bubbles and I would lug our suitcases that far! So we made sure to come back after our lunch to move the car.

And we got lucky that we managed to move the car before the rain deluge. It wasn’t an ordinary rain; it was pouring cats and dogs and we were stuck in the garage for more than an hour!

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Lunch at the Arsenal in Dubrovnik: Grilled Squid and Mussels


I would be lying through my teeth if I say that that we didn’t have great memories of our meals in Croatia. In fact, the best food we’ve had in this Balkan Road Trip was in Croatia, particularly in Dubrovnik!

Lunch at the Arsenal in the old harbour of Dubrovnik old town.

After having Cevapis 3 days in a row, arriving in Dubrovnik was somewhat a breath of fresh air for Bubbles and me, and there is a good reason for this. I know this is a bit of too much information (aka TMI) for some people but I suffered constipation in Bosnia & Hercegovina due to the new eating on-the-road pattern. My regular daily diet consists mostly of vegetables with some meat and not the other way around. Suffice to say, I had to go to the pharmacy in Sarajevo and seek some urgent help =)

But yeah, arriving in Dubrovnik was a game changer on our agenda and on my diet. Not just because it is a new city and a new country with new food and restaurants on offer, but we are soooo looking forward to pigging out on seafood!

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Arriving in Dubrovnik and the Magnificent View of the Stradun and Luza Square from our room


Dubrovnik, Croatia is the fourth stop in our Balkan Road Trip. We stayed here for 2 nights and 3 days in the historical old walled town.

The stunning view from our room window. Priceless.

This is Luza Square. Our room is on the second floor (third floor for the non-Europeans) of the building from the second to the right, just behind me and Orlandos Column.

The drive from Mostar to Dubrovnik took approximately 3 hours or perhaps a little bit longer since we have to cross over 2 international border crossings. I originally planned on a different route via Stolac but our GPS took us to this mostly used route where we had to go through the famous ‘Neum corridor’ exiting Bosnia & Herzegovina twice and entering Croatia twice as well. Luckily there was no heavy traffic and immigration went smooth. At both border crossings, the immigration officer asked for the green paper of the car (which is the registration of the car). You can’t cross without presenting this.

If you look at the map of both countries, it’s pretty interesting how Bosnia & Herzegovina managed to snatch a little piece of shoreline from Croatia – 20 kilometres of access to the sea in total. This is the only summer beach resort of Bosnia & Herzegovina, the holiday village of Neum aka the Neum corridor. But how on earth did this happen?

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My First Impressions of Mostar, Bosnia & Hercegovina


For starters, Mostar can only be reached by land by international tourists, either coming from the capital in Sarajevo or from Dubrovnik in Croatia and sometimes Split as well. Although a large number of tourists from Croatia coming to Mostar are day trippers from Dubrovnik (of the cruise ship package trips).

The Neretva River in Mostar. Beautiful huh?

So we came from Sarajevo with our rental car to Mostar, our 3rd stop in the Balkan road trip.

Bubbles and I were quite excited because we have seen a lot of pictures about this town. Little did we know though that Mostar is actually a huge city and is the capital of the Hercegovina region.

We were totally not expecting to be welcomed by a big city when we arrived in Mostar. It is the 5th largest city in Bosnia & Hercegovina after Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Tuzla and Zenica and the city is located in the valley of the Neretva River.

We have romanticized the beautiful postcard perfect pictures of Mostar Old Town thinking that the place is a small village with a nostalgic Old Bridge and propped on top of the rocky cliffs with the Neretva River flowing through it. Part of that imagery was correct though.

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Mostar Bosnian Lunch & Stari Most View at Restoran Lagero


Bubbles and I arrived around lunchtime in Mostar and our plan after checking in to Kriva Cuprija Hotel is a quick stroll in the Old Town and then lunch.

The lunch with a perfect view in Mostar.

I was eyeing a particular restaurant on the Neretva River with the perfect view of the iconic bridge for lunch, however, I was open as well for other suggestions. In my experience, nothing beats it when you are at the location yourself to survey the area. I know for sure that the restaurant I had in mind will have a lot of competition.

My idea of the perfect lunch in Mostar would be, of course, good Bosnian food and a spectacular view, and I was hoping, of the UNESCO world heritage site, the Stari Most (Old Bridge).

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Mostar: The Tale of the Crooked Bridge Hotel (Kriva Cuprija Hotel & Bridge)


When Bubbles and I were looking for hotels in Mostar, we both decided that we will stay in the Old Town and that it must be very central, in the core center and with a great view.

The hotel entrance from the main road.

We found the Kriva Cuprija Hotel online and were right away smitten by its ambience. We booked the room with the balcony and a view to the Old Town. We are only staying for a night in Mostar so we made sure that upon stepping out of the hotel, we are stepping into the Old Town. This was very important to us.

The hotel is named after the Kriva Cuprija bridge which means ‘Crooked Bridge’. It is a small stone one-arched bridge that closely resembles the UNESCO world-heritage Stari Most (Old Bridge), the iconic symbol of Mostar. The small arched bridge is located right at the foot of the hotel with the Radobolja creek flowing under it. Umm, sounds very romantic, huh? =)

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Bosnia & Hercegovina: Driving the Beautiful Neretva River Valley Highway


One of the nice surprises I experienced in my last spring's Balkan Road Trip was the drive from Sarajevo to Mostar. It was quite spectacular.

We highly recommend the drive along the Neretva River Valley.

Sarajevo to Mostar took approximately 2+ hours (about 130 kilometres) on the E73 highway passing by towns, Konjic and Jablanica. The highway is laid out parallel to the beautiful Neretva river and valley, also known as Narenta, flowing through Bosnia & Herzegovina and all the way to Croatia and out to the Adriatic Sea.

I must say that the waters of the river are turquoise blue and the canyons and hills on both sides of the valley were just stunning. A great backdrop during the 2-hour drive.

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Sarajevo: Lovely Dinner at the Four Rooms of Mrs. Safija (4 Sobe Gospode Safija)


Sarajevo’s cuisine and restaurant scene is still up and coming. The city does not have a Michelin star restaurant YET but I am sure it will get there in due time.

For our first night’s dinner in the city, I was eyeing the unique “Four Rooms of Mrs Safija” restaurant. From what I understood, the address is an exclusive and upscale place and it is one of the best restaurants in town.

A welcome port drink from the house. Cheers!

Alma, our new friend from the hotel reception was quite impressed when we asked her to call the restaurant and reserve a table for us. ‘It’s a very expensive restaurant!’ she told us.

I guess everyone in Sarajevo knows the “Four Rooms of Mrs Safija” (4 sobe gospođe Safije), huh?

I don’t like going overboard with the things I do during my travels (well, sometimes, haha), especially when it comes to spending so I checked their prices just to make sure, and after forex calculations, it came out reasonable from a western European spending perspective, although costly I am sure for the locals.

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Kazandžiluk: The Coppersmith & Metalworking Souvenir Street in Sarajevo


Sarajevo was the second stop in our Balkan road trip last spring.

We landed in Tuzla in the north and stayed a night in the city. The next morning we set forth down south to Sarajevo. We drove our rental car through valleys and mountains and stopping in between to take pictures of the Bosnian countryside. Finally, we arrive in the capital mid in the afternoon.

We checked in to our hotel, Villa Melody which is approximately 8 minutes walking distance to Baščaršija (the Old Town). Afterwards, we decided to hit the Old Town for our late lunch. We were starving! The lovely young hotel receptionist gave us a Cevapi place suggestion, MRKVA which we were able to find in just a matter of minutes.

When we were in Tuzla, Bubbles and I have promised to eat the famous cevapi as our first meal in Sarajevo.

After the delicious late cevapi lunch, we thought we will walk around a bit, just to get our bearings right in the city. We are staying here for 3 days, and tomorrow, we have a big agenda to follow so why not get familiar with the popular landmarks and streets first.

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Where we stayed in Sarajevo: Villa Melody


Because Sarajevo is still up and coming in the tourism sector, prices of hotels in the city are very reasonable. However, the choices are very limited.

Our modern room in Villa Melody.

The view from the breakfast area's terrace to the street.

Bubbles and I will be arriving in the city with a car, so a free inside the premises of the hotel parking place is on the top of the list, followed by easy access to everything and lastly, we prefer a hotel that is modern and hygienic (at least in the pictures).

This is how we ended up choosing for Villa Melody. We stayed here for 2 nights and 3 days.

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Sarajevo, the land of Cevapi: MRKVA versus Zeljo


Cevapi or Cevapcici is the national dish of Bosnia & Hercegovina (and Serbia as well). It is very popular in the Balkans and a trip to this part of Eastern Europe is not complete without tasting it a few times.

When Bubbles and I were in Bosnia & Hercegovina last April, we were advised by everyone to eat Cevapi. It is a must! We started our trip in Tuzla where we had some local Balkan stews for our dinner. We promised ourselves to have Cevapi for lunch when we arrive in Sarajevo the next day.

In Sarajevo, there are 2 famous places to eat Cevapi. That’s MKRVA and Zeljo. MRKVA was recommended to us by the lovely young receptionist of our hotel. She swears it is the best and it is where the locals prefer to eat their Cevapi. The latter, Zeljo is very popular among the tourists.

So like any curious culinary traveller who not only enjoys the gourmet delights of this world, but also the customary local dishes and street food scene, Bubbles and I decided to try both.

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The Hague (NL): Luden, ZOT, Mama Kelly and Life Sentiments


Sometimes I wish life would have been more simpler than what it is. But it is not.

When I look mindfully around me, I realise that I am living cosily inside my own little bubble. My random concerns about life is a far cry from, say, people my age who have children and are confronted daily with the rigours of family life. From people and families who struggle every day and every month to make ends meet. But also far different from someone living off a trust fund. Some people are just simply very lucky in life, financially and perhaps in their relationships as well. Some not, and it sucks. As for me, I do wonder, well sometimes, if I am out of touch with what the real life is like out there.

I guess we all each live in our own little special and unique bubble. I know perfectly that my view about life and the struggles I have failed in comparison to what others out there are facing. So it is good therapy you know to burst our bubble every now and then.

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Dining Out in Vaujany at Le Stou in the French Alps


When we go for our yearly winter sports holiday in the Alps, Dutchman and I bring ready-to-heat-up typically Dutch winter meals such as boerenkool and zuurkool (a mash of vegetables and potatoes), complete with rookworst (Dutch smoked sausage), appelmoes (apple compote) and jus (gravy).

Our fondue dinner at Le Stou.

The quiet streets of the little ski resort village, Vaujany.

We enjoy the ready-to-eat Dutch winter meals for 3-4 nights, and other nights we would go to the village and eat out in a restaurant. It’s a nice diversion to the holiday when you eat out, but winter sports holiday isn’t your usual type of holiday where eating out every night is recommended.

There are some nights when you just want to stay in your apartment, chalet or hotel. Especially after the first day of skiing when your muscles are all worked up and begging for a nice hot tub bath. It is also very cold outside, with temperatures running below zero, so many just prefer to eat inside, which is why catered chalets and apartments are sometimes popular. We had a catered hotel in the past as well which we had a very good experience.

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A Skiing Day-Off in Vaujany, French Alps


Dutchman and I normally take a week off every January for skiing and snowboarding in the Alps. It has become a much looked forward to yearly winter tradition.

I am not, however, a huge fan of skiing every single day of the whole week of the winter sports holiday. I like some variety during my vacation, and I would like to do other things as well. Such as checking out the local village, perhaps visiting a local food and artisanal market and if the village has a nice spa, why not indulge for a day? I am far from being a big spa person, but, if the place is nice and it has beautiful views, I would wing it for the day.

So in Vaujany where we stayed for the holiday, I spent a day checking out the terraces on the slopes of L'Alpette 2050 and Montfrais 1650. I just wanted to sit on a terrace and people watch.

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Alpe d'Huez Grand Domain Ski Resort: This is Not High Season Yet


Did you know that there is traffic in the Alps as well?

The loooong queue to get to the top of the mountain at Le Signal lift in Alpe d'Huez. Take note, this is the 4th week of January on a Thursday, not high season yet!

And I mean long lift queues and irritating skiers and snowboarders traffic on the slopes! Not a very encouraging sight at all, believe me.

This is one of the many the reasons why Dutchman and I take our wintersport holiday during the low season, just a week or two before high season starts when school the holidays kick in. In Alpe d'Huez we witnessed these queues and it really turned us off a lot.

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Alpe d’Huez, French Alps: La Plage des Neiges Bar Restaurant


It’s getting cold these days. Autumn is slowly kicking in here in the Netherlands and sooner or later it will be winter, and then it’s time to go skiing again!

Obviously, not in the Netherlands, but in the Alps.

Last winter, which was January of this year, Dutchman and I booked a chalet accommodation in a small ski village resort in the French Alps called Vaujany. The ski village has a humongous cable car that can carry more than 100 people to the L'Alpette 2050 mountain top. From here you can ski down to Oz en Oisans and take the connecting lifts to a bigger skiing terrain, the famous Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine Ski Resort.

Alpe d’Huez is also one of the cycling legs with breathtaking views of Tour de France.

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