Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Who doesn’t like cake?

I’d like a show of hands.

Just as I thought. Not a single hand was raised. Everyone loves cake. We pig out on it at least once a year when our birthday rolls around. Whether you are blowing out candles or taking your mum out for a treat (yes, my mum loves cake too) or cheering yourself up after a downer day, cake is the solution to many of life’s problems. I don’t mean this to be an ode to cake. Just an introduction to one city who knows cake, really really well: Amsterdam.

Who is the king of the cake castle?

The two gents behind De taart van m’n tante. Siemon and Noam don’t make just any kind of cakes, they make pieces of art. Their tasty creations have actually been on exhibition before at the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk, Van Gogh Museum and Utrechts Museum. It’s serious business, cakes.The pair opened the café in 1990 and since then have exploded with success, locals aren’t the only ones apparently who love cake. It’s a special spot to visit if you’re in Amsterdam. I know at this point you’ve already searched for flights to Amsterdam

I already can’t wait to get my hands on a slice of their magic. What’s more, the cake shop is also a Bed & Breakfast. There are three rooms upstairs, each with its own theme. There is a communal kitchen, living room and wireless internet. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to the smell of delicious cakes being baked just underneath? Mmmm…. sweet dreams indeed!

Where can you find them?

Ferdinand Bolstraat 10
1072 LJ Amsterdam
Open: 10:00-18:00 daily

In their own words, “A life full of cake – how magnificently delicious!”

In your opinion, which culture does the best dessert? Which sweet have you tried abroad that you just wish you could eat everyday at home?

For more info, check out their website.

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I’m not always the one that goes for the 4-star hotel or the up-scale restaurant when travelling (don’t get me wrong because I’d like to if my pocket could afford it). Usually on a tight budget, I’d rather eat with the locals in the local restaurants and pubs and sleep in backpackers hostels or guest houses instead of at chain hotels that are familiar from home.

But a friend of mine just came back from a trip to Marrakech, a friend that also travels on a budget and I couldn’t imagine her photographs and the stories about the places she stayed at. An average budget apparently affords a lot in Morocco so I asked her how she did it.

I know I’m not the only one that lives travelling like a diva but has never had the pocketbook to afford it so here is what I took from her advice, of course I did my own research into the topic as well and this is my short guide.

How to travel luxuriously on a budget

(some of these tips I’ll definitely be trying on my upcoming trip to Italy).

1. Savings Plan

(I hate this already) Luxury travelling takes savings and the preparations start long before the holiday does. At the start of each year start a holiday jar, adding £15 to it every week, or as often as you can. After 12 months, you’ll have £720, which can definitely cover the hotel bill and your cheap flights to Marrakech if you’re creative.

2. Save money on food

Instead of eating out every meal, go grocery shopping as soon as you arrive, picking up snacks, breakfast foods, etc which are easily eaten in your hotel room or at your riad. Book a hotel room in Marrakech that includes a microwave and a refrigerator. Make a “dining out” budget while on holidays for special nights and spare some change for grabbing street food at lunchtime.

3. Book in advance

If you know that you want to take a holiday in Morocco, or anywhere else for that matter, then book it as soon as possible. Riads and hotels often have special deals so call ahead and inquire. Look for “early bird” or “off season” savings especially.

4. Plan excursions online

Camel tours and special excursions are sometimes much cheaper if booked or reserved online. The savings might not seem like much but they certainly add up. You’re likely not to find too many museum savings on the internet in Marrakech but hotel-organised trips, definitely.

5. Save on the flights

If there’s anything I’ve learned from travelling is that transportation is easy to save money one and that there’s incredible savings out there if you know how and where to look. I use a travel search engine, liligo.com but I know there are a few others out there too. Search once and compare the fares available, then it’s easy to see what you’re missing (or not) without having to guess. Look for low cost airlines, off-season flights and book them in advance, it’s the best advice.

I don’t know about you, but I’d really love to take a luxury holiday one of these days, Marrakech sounds perfect. Where would you go on your all-inclusive luxury jaunt?

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T0 many Brits the case is closed, the Isle of Man is full of strange folk and is the place where weird things happen. It is however a whole lot more than this. The Isle of Man may be the secluded summer destination of many wealthy Brits but it is far from strange. The island itself is a natural paradise: rolling hills, lush and green valleys, rugged rocks along the coast. What could be so strange about that?

Sitting in between Ireland and England, the Isle of Man is a rare mix of Norse and Gaelic traditions, both having settled there between 400 AD and 800 AD. Today it is still heralded for its culture, heritage, landscapes and most of all its legends.

The island is ruled by Manannan mac Lir, the god of the sea, who protects the island by hiding it under his cloak when invaders are coming. Fairies are said to make their home here, so when you’re passing over Fairy Bridge make sure you wish them a ‘Good Morning!’ or ‘Good Afternoon!’ in order to ensure good luck for the near future.

It’s true that many visit the island for the TT Races every year, but if you ask me, it’s hardly a reason to go to the Isle of Man. Why watch some motorcycles when you can hike through the hills, explore the coastline and enjoy a steaming dish of spuds and herring, the local favourite?

You’re bound to wind up in a pub at some point during your trip to Mann, so pull up a stool and ask the bar tended to tell you some stories about the island. There is a reason why many refer to this place as the Isle of Strange, but it’s up to you whether you are going to believe it.

How to get there?

There are cheap flights from Liverpool to Isle of Man for £45 round trip. Both flybe and easyJet fly there on a daily basis.

You can also take the ferry from Liverpool or Heysham to the island’s capital, Douglas. During the summer there is also service from Dublin.

Don’t give into the legends of strange on the Isle of Man, travel there and discover it for yourself!

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Lovely Lyon, it’s never hard to choose where to go for a short holiday in France with so many choices just about every part of the country has something unique to offer. This year a lot of travellers will be trying to stay local, either because of their budget or for environmental reasons. The whole “buy local” has caught on globally and there is nothing wrong with exploring what’s in your backyard. I wouldn’t say Lyon is in Paris’ backyard but it’s close enough to make a great road trip for a weekend away if you fly.

My proposition: buy local. Even if it means staying home for holidays. Take a short trip away, hire a car (a hybrid is even better) and explore cities you’ve never seen in your own country. Lyon, if you’ve never been is a perfect destination whether you’re travelling solo, with a sweetheart, with your kids in tow, even with your parents!

Lyon is for lovers of food, wine (especially Beaujolais) and picnics in river-side parks. Architecture is at its best at the church of Notre-Dame de Fourvière in La Croix Rousse. The city is easy to enjoy and you shouldn’t waste any time getting to know Lyon’s dining scene: Lyon is second only behind Paris for the most restaurants per square kilometre in Europe. Not just restaurants, but delicious restaurants.

What to see in Lyon:

Musée des Arts Décoratifs – inside an 18th c. mansion is the city’s collection of silverware, furniture, porcelain, textiles and art objects.

Rue du Boeuf – located in Vieux Lyon, Rue du Boeuf has hidden courtyards, spiral stairs, fragile facades and endless towers and traboules. There is a lot to discover ion this street from 15th century houses to renaissance sculptures.

Jardin des Chartreux – a leafy park, it is a perfect place to set down yoru picnic basket while basking in the afternoon sun and soaking in the views of the rivier and Fourvière Hill.

Maison du Crible – one of the oldest mansions in the city, Maison du Crible has a charming courtyard with a rose tower.

Hotel de Ville – a gem designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Robert de Cotte after a fire in 1674, the rest of the building dates even earlier than that in the 17th century.

Where to eat in Lyon:

Café 203/Café 100 Tabac – located near the opera, these two sister bistros are really popular for cheap dishes that are served from dawn until long after midnight. You should ask there the names came from. (9 rue du Garet, Presqu’île)

Juliénas – for something classically French, head here. The menu is almost strickly Beaujolais and is priced for those with a budget, even if you order a glass of wine with your meal. (236 rue d’Anse, Villefrance-sur-Saone)

Les Lyonnais – the local celebrities are immortalized in photographs on the walls of this French restaurant in Lyon’s old town. The menu features simple dishes adn tehre is always a plate of the day. (1 rue Tramassac)

Where are you heading for holidays this summer? Have you been to Lyon?

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The legendary Silk Road, which wind itself on land and over the world’s great waters has always been an interest of mine. More specifically, the places  along this historical trade route between my home and Ancient China, Tibet and India.

The route was used during the Han dynasty, in the first century through the Roman Empire until the Renaissance, to export silks, jewels and gems, rhubarb and glass, medicine, herbs, spice and perfumes, other rich textiles and even slaves. The main route starts inland China, Luoyang and goes west passing India and through Persia to Damascus. The rest of the trip is made by boat to Turkey, Italy and Greece.

One thing is true about this route: it is filled with unforgettable cultural adventures!

I’ve always wanted to travel it, but I know that even in historical times it was rare that anyone ever travelled the entire way. Agents used to transport the goods and silks only for part of the way, passing it on to the next agent on the route. The first thing to do in order to get ready to travel the Silk Road is gathering the literature: stories, art history books, anthropology studies, novels… There is no shortage of folklore and references to the Silk Road in literature.

The next thing is starting to make your itinerary. Deciding to do the journey in parts is a good idea, especially if you don’t have too much time to travel like me. Even now I wouldn’t put trekking through Iran or Iraq at the top of my list because of their current political situation, but if you want to pass through the least amount of countries possible, head this way: Syria, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Iran , Afghanistan, Tajikistan and China.

I’d love to start my journey from the beginning, working my way back towards Europe, keeping north of the Plateau of Tibet and hiking along the mountains. Read up on the countries and more specifically the regions you want to visit, some have tourist advisories, danger areas and required visas.

The only way to travel this route is with all of the necessary research. Knowing about the currency, culture, history (modern and ancient), geography and current affairs will make the journey much more rewarding. Some recommend picking up a Lonely Planet for each country, but to be honest I don’t want to weigh down my pack with guide books. Keep a notebook with the most important information or tear out (I know, I said it, I want you to rip out pages of a book) the pages that are necessary, keeping them in a small folder or inside a notebook. You also won’t be spotted as the “tourist” from first glance.

This is where I’m going to leave you, stranded at choosing an itinerary. What do you pack for such a journey? What would be your top choices for countries?

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Locals are by far the best tour guides. They can usually tell you in an instant more about the history of the city, its stories on top of the cheapest places to grab a burger or a pint than any guide book, no matter how reputable. It takes living in a city to really know it and if you’re short on time (aka, if you’re not living there yourself) then you should get in touch with a local to show you around. When I’m travelling I try and get off of the tourist trail as much as possible and if I manage to find a local to take me around for an afternoon, well that is just an added bonus.

How to find a local?

Sometimes it just takes ordering a drink/coffee and sitting at the bar in the afternoon. Bartenders are friendly in most places and I’ve always been able to get a few pointers out of them after chatting for a little bit. I have the most luck with Couchsurfing.com, a great site that lets you find travellers and locals  in cities around the world. This site is meant to connect people, if you need a place to sleep or if you just want to  meet for a drink and it does a great job. You need a profile and it helps if you spend some time filling it out properly. Then you just make a search and start sending emails out. You should get a response quite quickly.

So, back to Hamburg.

I wanted to put together a few tips for visiting Hamburg. I’ve only been once but I really enjoyed it, especially because I had a local to show me and my travelling companion around. We spend our days just hanging out, the normal stuff a local would do. We ate vegan burritos in St. Pauli and walked around the harbour, taking photographs of street art and cool architecture. With a little help, from some locals, I’ve come up with some top places/things to do/eateries/etc. for Hamburg so if you’re travelling that way and you don’t manage to find a local to show you around, you have a t least a handful of great places to check out! So here it goes…

Where to drink like a local:

Zoë Bar (Clemens-Schultz-Str. 96)

Described as the perfect place to meet friend and make friends. The drinks are cheap (a glass of red wine is around 2.60 €) and on weekends they screen films that you’ve likely never heard of before. The atmosphere is rustic and vintage, honest you could say.

Die Herren Simpel (Schulterblatt 75)

A classic breakfast joint where you can fill yourself after waking up for 4.90 €. Coffee is always fresh and always delicious. By the time evening rolls around this bistro has turned into a classy place for cocktails and glasses of wine. Wireless is free here too. The staff are fast and effecient and always deliver with a smile.

Pony Bar (Allende Platz 1)

This place is relaxed and no one seems to be in a hurry to serve you or to leave. The furniture is straight from the 1970s and since its located near the University of Hamburg, it’s always filled with students. A glass of Merlot costs 3 € here for a coffee with milk costs 1.90 €. There is a music room with live performances almost every night of the week.

Where to eat like a local:

Hatari (Schanzenstr. 2-3)

This restaurant serves typical German food but it is a no frills kind of place. They don’t serve over-priced tourist menus, they just serve German food for a reasonable price in big portions. A main course dish costs 7 €.

Ribatejo (Bahrenfelder Strasse 56)

Tasty and Mediterranean, there is no way of walking out of here unsatisfied. It is cosy and personal serving Portuguese dishes, including a wide range of tapas.

Where to chill/hang out/shop like a local:

Docklands (Van-der-Smissen-Strasse 9)

This 25m tall building gives the best views of the harbour, especially at sunset. It is free to enter but you have to make it up the 144 steps to the viewing platform. You can watch the ships come in and out.

Gängeviertel (Caffamacherreihe 43)

Somewhere between Valentinskamp and Caffamacherriehe you’ll find a dozen old houses that were once sworn to be torn down by a properous business man. Because of their historical important the houses are now being squatted by local artists and performers, recreating the old houses into living art galleries and creative spaces. Every night there are poetry readings, concerts, exhibitions and more for free. You can visit the buildings daily from 13:00 except Mondays.

Flohshanze (Neuer Kamp 30)

Each Saturday from 8:00 until 16:00 is flea market day. You can find loads of treasures here. It is a great place to go shopping or just gawk at teh kitch items.

Botanical Gardens (Ohnhorststrasse 18)

A perfect place for a walk and a chilled out afternoon. Even locals flock to these gardens on a nice day to enjoy them. The experience is interactive, smell and touch the flowers, one of them even smells like chocolate! Learn about which plants can be used for what, some are edible which you can try yourself! It is divided into different themes and once you’re done you can relax your senses at The Palme, a trendy café located next door.

This is it for now, but if you’ve been to Hamburg before, let me know what you loved, or even what you didn’t love. If you’re a Hamburg local leave me a comment if you want to add something to the list! If you have more suggestions for cities by locals, I’d love to do posts about this in the future.

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I know how much the post on tortilla in Spain attracted all of you, I mean, who doesn’t love reading about travelling and food? So I thought about adding another recipe to a dish I loved to eat while travelling through the south of Spain and into Morocco. Felafel is a staple if you’re travelling in the Middle East and Norther Africa, especially if you’re vegetarian like me. If you’ve never tasted the glory that is felafel, it’s a ball of fried ball of chickpeas or fava beans and some herbs and spices. These balls are put into a pita with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickled vegetables and drizzled in tahini (or my favourite, tzaziki). You can also eat felafal with a meze or just on its own as a snack.

I can’t talk about a food without a little bit of history… Felafel originated in Egypt and some believe it was eaten initially by the Copts to replace meat while Lent was going on. When the dish migrated to Levant, the fava beans were replaced by chick peas. Now its a staple in street food and fast food in the Middle East… did you know that you can even find it at McDonalds in some countries?? “One McFelafel, please!” I can just imagine.

What you’ll need:

  • a blender or food processor
  • 2 bowls
  • 1 spoon
  • 1 tray
  • 1 slotted spoon
  • 1 sauce pan
  • paper towels or napkins


  • 250 g chick peas, pre-cooked or cook them beforehand
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 handful of coriander, chopped
  • 1 chili, chopped
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • salt & pepper

1. Put the chickpeas into the blender and pulse it a few times and then on full to make a bread-crumb like texture. Transfer it into a bowl. Then purée these ingredients: parsley, coriander, chili, and 2 spoons of the chick pea mix. Mix until well combined.

2. Mix the two together then add the flour, cumin, crushed coriander seeds, baking soada and 1 1/2 tbsp of salt (approx). Add finally a bit of pepper and combine at all with a spoon. If it’s too dry, add a little water.

3. Preheat the oil in the pan. Then form balls out of the mixture and drop them in whe the oil is hot enough to fry. With this size batch, you should be able to make around 25 felafel balls. Fry in batches for 2 minutes until they are golden brown and then place on a tray with kitchen towels to absorb the oil. Once all of them are done, you’re ready to build your pita.

Take a look at this video for the step-by-step:

Middle Eastern:
How To Make Falafel

Let me know if you try the recipe and how it turned out! I’d love to hear about your gastronomy travellers too, what are your staples while on the road? In Spain I can recommend Granada for Moroccan food, it’s very cheap and super delicious, including Felafel. As for Morocco, you’ll find great food just about anywhere!

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