Iceland

Where to next? Slowly we are collecting passport stamps of the 500 best places to visit on this planet. One day we will be closing this book and have written our own stories. I have always been wondering where this urge to explore the world comes from. So I had our DNA tested on my Heritage to find out more about our ancestors.

Collecting passport stamps.

Before the results came in, I decided that our next trip will be taken to where my ancestors came from. The exciting moment soon vanished when my results came in. No far away mystical land, just very local Northern European (47% Scandinavian, 37% Northern European and 16% British). So the furthest I could take my next trip was Iceland and I dragged my friend Laura along.

Discovering my roots.

As soon as we arrived on Icelandic ground, that was after I accidentally missed the exit and walked straight through customs into boarding a plane to the US where I luckily found a nice officer to take me back to the “Welcome to Iceland” area, we picked up our rental car to explore the arctic circle.

It was all fun and games until the wind spilled our free glass of wine.

As the Eiffel tower to Paris is, so the Blue Lagoon is to Iceland. With all the positive and negative connotations implied. It is said to be too commercial and too crowded but you will be missing something if you do not go. When we arrived the wind was so strong it almost blew us out of the car. Luckily we could hold on to the doors.

Gullfoss waterfall

Following the golden circle we started to track the most amazing cascades in the world. Starting from Haifoss, Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss to the most famous of them all, Gullfoss.


Horses are an integral part of Icelandic life as it is in ours.

We stayed in a cute little cabin in the woods before continuing our journey to Jokulsarlon. The glorious luminous blue icebergs drifting through the Jokulsarlon lagoon before floating out to sea.

Jokulsarlon lagoon

On our next stop we visited diamond beach. A surreal scene with black sand and diamond shaped ice cubes on the shore. As we wandered the lakeshore it started raining and storming insanely. Soaked to the bone we located our car and drove off with the heaters on defrosting mode.

Trying the diamonds on diamond beach

The next day our journey continued to Skaftafell national park. A breath taking collection of peaks and glaciers.


Skaftafell National Park

After visiting the glaciers we went on a hiking trip to the Svartifoss waterfall. The star of a hunderd postcards. This waterfall with the black basalt columns is easy to find when you follow the 2km trail.


Svartifoss waterfall

On our return to Reykjavik we stopped at the world’s largest spouting hot springs. Every five minutes there is an eruption of steaming hot water in the air. A rare phenomena which we definitely could not miss on our journey. There is a video of the eruption on my Insta travel blog.

The great Geysir

Our hotel was located on the perfect spot to see the northern lights. Unfortunately on the days we visited Iceland it was cloudy and the sky was not clear enough to see the northern lights. Which means we just need to visit Iceland again and hopefully luck will be on our side.

The perfect excuse to plan our return.

Goodbye Iceland, it was lovely to meet you.

Tulipfields in Holland

Spring is in the air and it makes me feel like writing something about the typical Dutch tulip fields and where to find them.

Typical Dutch scenery

Besides the main tourist attraction Keukenhof gardens there are many real life flower fields throughout Holland you can visit for free.

Noordoostpolder

Only a short trip by bike away you find to most beautiful flower fields between the cities Harderwijk and Dronten. Go hiking or use your bike to explore the glorious fields without trying to avoid buses of tourists.

Check https://tulpenrouteflevoland.nl/ to get directions to the flowerfields.

Creating your own flower arrangements

Get creative and bring your own flower bouquet home at www.hannekespluktuin.nl Spending a day in nature which is especially fun to do together with your children.

Jasmine in her creative mindset

In the end of the day your feet should be dirty, your hair messy and your eyes sparkling. This is what a perfect weekend in April looks like.

Time to go home

Sicily, Italy

The most adventurous holiday we ever been on was our roadtrip around Sicily. Before arrival we had a minor setback when our car rental company told us right before departure that we could not pick up our car at arrival because there was simply no one available to hand over the key. Great start of the holidays and this was only the beginning. Nothing could break our spirits and this just ended up as the most legendary trip so far.  

Amore a prima vista

When we arrived at the airport in Catania we did not just lost our car key handout but also our bags were nowhere to be found. Luckily our hotel provided us with flip flops, a toothbrush and cleaning products to survive the first days without any personal items.

The next day when we picked up our car we checked the lost and found department at the airport where we found our minty green luggage set waiting for us to be collected. Unfortunately we could only collect them during office hours.

The American guy without a suitcase next to us could not take it anymore and caused a huge scene at the airport and thanks to him someone came to our rescue, opened the office door and our minty green luggage set and us were reunited. Our holidays could finally begin….

On top of the Etna volcano

We can proudly announce that we succesfully climbed an active volcano, to the top. The views on top are amazing. Definitely something you need to see once in a lifetime. Mission accomplished.

Just some small appetizers they said….

After climbing a volcano you start to get a bit hungry. We found a lovely little restaurant in a small town called Milo next to the volcano. We ordered small appetizers to share between the three of us. Just some advise, Sicilian food does not come in small sizes.

Bar Vitelli in Savoca

The next day we visited a town on top of a mountain called Savoca. A challenging drive to the top but you will be rewarded with a stunning view on arrival. And an Aperol Spritz at the local bar. This town is the filming location for the Godfather films. Step into Don Corleone’s footsteps and it leads you straight into Bar Vitelli.

A room with a view

The following days we spent in Taormina, the jetset city with the spectacular view, just walking around and stopping lots to enjoy all the delicious food the Sicilian cuisine has to offer.

Teatro Greco

The Greek-Roman theatre brings you two millennia back in time. This theatre is still in use and when you are lucky there are still tickets available for the opera playing that evening.

Isola Bella

A cable car brings you fromTaormina to a little island called Isola Bella. A hidden fairytale island covered in flowers surrounded by a rocky mountain scape. A sanctuary from a troubling world.

And so this unfortunate case of events turned out to be the best roadtrip we have ever been on. And long after we will still be talking and laughing about it. These are the memories that will last forever and ever.

Antwerp, Belgium

Now and then I have to visit one of my best friends from Ireland now relocated to Antwerp, Belgium. Antwerp is a beautifully preserved historial city with lovely pubs and restaurants. This city calls out for retail therapy.

Antwerp: The city with the most beautiful train station.

From Holland it’s only a train trip away. For only 50 euro’s you can have a lovely weekend getaway abroad and feeling like you have been exploring a different country.

Getting around town

The easiest way to explore the city is by bike. These bikes are available everywhere in the city and if you drop them off within 30 minutes to another bike station, it’s free of charge,

Even when it’s raining it’s a beautiful city

In Berchem you can probably find the most beautiful streets in the world. Just look around and explore and take a break at one of the charming coffeebars you can find on every corner. Just take it slow and absorb the beauty.

Christmas in Antwerp

Christmas would be the best time visit Antwerp. Never has the city looked more magical as around Christmas time. The shots of Jenever you can get anywhere help you experience the magical flow and most definitely gets your Christmas spirit on.

Ferris wheel: The perfect way to get to know the city

And once you finished your retail therapy session, don’t forget to bring home the best pastries and chocolates in the world. The best thing about travelling by train is that there are no limits on the amount of bags you can bring on board, Use it wisely.

Aachen, Germany

When my daughter made plans for the bank holiday weekend to spend it with one of her besties, it was the ultimate chance for me to dance the night away on a 3 day music festival. And so this story begins….

Ready for departure. While Jasmine is enjoying a camping trip with her friend, mama is taking her mission to explore the world to the next level.

What better than combining a festival with a citytrip to an idyllic German town to meet up your storybook fantasies. Aachen was an easy pick, just across the Dutch border and public transport available to go and come back from the Pinkpop festival. That last part turned out not to be entirely true. We managed to see al lot of county Limburg due to all the miscommunication between the international bus services.

Aachen cathedral takes you back in time.

Besides the bus service failure to Aachen from Pinkpop, the train service during daytime to Aachen is easy and highly affordable. A perfect weekend getaway if you do want to go abroad but not wish to spend time travelling there.

Medieval cobbled streets, boutique arcades, clocks and folk figures that have frolicked prettily in the fountains since the 16th century: A faraway fairytale setting where Disney must have used the background charm for many films. You will fall in love with all of the little details of this city.

Hopeless wanderer

Just start wandering the streets of Aachen to explore all the beautiful buildings and architecture before going back to future. Do not forget to stop at one of the many pubs to drink a beer and eat bratwurst or Schnitzel. Germany is going green so every typical German dish has a veggie version. You just cannot live a full life on an empty stomach.

Printen, available everywhere and they do not let you leave without it.

Manchester vs Liverpool

When your friends have tickets to the Spice girls reunion tour and ask you if want to join them your first response is YES. Despite the fact that you need to travel to Manchester for it.

Spice up your life! My bags are packed and I’m on my way to Manchester to join the girls for an epic concert.

The concert was wet and rainy but an amazing atmosphere. Do you ever listen to a song and remember exactly what life was like when you first heard it? That is the exact nostalgic feeling we had when we sang along with these songs from our childhood memories.

Penny lane is in my ears and in my eyes. There beneath the blue suburban skies.

The day after the concert we took a train straight into Liverpool to visit the roots of the other famous band from the UK. Liverpool and Manchester are only a 30 minute train ride apart. So once you visit one, do not forget about the other.

Strawberry fields forever.

We booked a magical mystery bus tour to guide us to the famous sites the Beatles ever touched or sang about. Our guide and driver are the biggest fans and educated us thoroughly. Did you know that Strawberry field used to be a Salvation Army children’s home next to John Lennon’s childhood home which he used to visit in secret as a little boy?

A complete new perspective on a song.

The world famous Cavern Club

The tour dropped us off at the famous Cavern Club where their story began. We had a couple drinks, (veggie) hamburgers and sang along with the music. It is what we do best. And nothing to get hung about.

Enjoying the best and most creative cocktails in town.

Back in Manchester we enjoyed the best and most creative cocktails ever made at the Washhouse. A top secret spot disguised as a washhouse where reservations are a must. Ring the phone and they might let you enter the club.

Definitely worth your time!

Dublin – Glendalough – Wicklow Mountains

A small capital with a huge reputation. This describes Dublin perfectly. For years this town we called home and going back with Jasmine makes this journey extra special.

Christ Church; The most photogenic spot in Dublin.

There are many ways to discover Dublin’s Viking past, but Dublinia the city’s Viking and Medieval museum has interactive exhibits that are specifically designed to appeal younger visitors. Especially after we discovered through My Heritage DNA research that our ancestors came from Scandinavia, it was a must to visit.

Discovering our Viking roots in Dublinia

After years of moving to the Netherlands I still miss Dublin. Mostly the intimate atmosphere. Dublin is a small village disguised as a capital, where going for a walk is as much an opportunity for socialising as actually making an arrangement to meet someone. Even in the most familiar town, you can still find new bits to be enthousiastic about. Dublin is never disappointing.

This lake is named Guinness lake for obvious reasons.

The best thing about Dublin is that within 10 minutes you find yourself in a fairytale forest.

Glendalough (two lakes), nature’s playground for most Dubliners.

A visit to Gendalough is a trip through ancient history combined with a refreshing hike in the hills. The ancient monastic settlement was founded by St Kevin in the 5th century. St Kevin was the first and ultimate animal whisperer. The ancient version of Dr. Doolittle.

No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle

We booked a tour on tripadvisor.com with Hilltoptreks to go horse riding in the Wicklow Mountains. The trip was arranged perfectly and I would highly recommend it to all horse lovers around the world. We absolutely loved it and the fact that it included a pickup and drop off from Dublin city centre saved us the hassle to rent a car.

Bye Dublin, let’s meet up soon again!

Disneyland Paris

Traditions have a very special way of keeping favourite memories forever in our hearts. Our Christmas tradition is leaving right after Saint Stephen’s day for Disneyland. Disneyland is the most magical place on earth and gets even more magical during the Christmas holidays. There is no better period to visit and you can easily combine it with Paris.

Hello Disneyland

The best way to travel to Disneyland is by train. We just love travelling by train, it is convenient, easygoing and environmental friendly. There is a train service from Amsterdam straight into the Disneyland station Marne de la Vallee. Train tickets can be booked 3 months prior to departure and for a return ticket you will pay 70 euros. Children will pay 30 euros for a return ticket.

Hotels in Disneyland are expensive and that is exactly why we book our hotel just outside the park. Hotels in the area have shuttle buses bringing you back and forth within 10 minutes and free of charge to the Disneyland park and hotels.

Restaurant Chez Remy

Going out for dinner in one of the Disneyland restaurants is a must! Bear in mind that prices on these menus are magical as well. To save up we pick one restaurant we need to have dinner at and make reservations prior to our arrival. On our last visit we had dinner at Chez Remy, this restaurant comes straight out of a Ratatouille movie scene and makes you believe you are the size of a mouse.

Dinner at Chez Remy

Other restaurants that are lovely to visit are Captain Jack’s pirates restaurant where you travel through time to the 18th century to some Bounty island surrounded by pirates and scum.

Trust me, it’s a lot better than it sounds.


The most magical time of the year

When you are travelling with little princesses you cannot leave Disneyland without having dinner at L’Auberge de Cendrillon. The Disney princesses will come alive to talk to you and even dance the night away with their prince charmings while you are enjoying your dinner.

Disneyland by night

If you want to keep your Disneyland trip on a budget I would suggest you have dinner at a Disneyland restaurant once on your trip. There are many other good options just outside the park like the Rainforest cafe or good old Vapiano.

When in Paris…

We just cannot leave Disneyland without a short stopover in Paris to enjoy the best pastries in town. We have tried many patisseries but Laduree keeps on being one of our favourites. Especially the eclairs are lovely.

The day we conquered Paris…

Ameland

Our favourite weekend getaway in Holland is a little island all the way up north: Ameland.

An ocean breeze puts a mind at ease. True story. When you arrive on Ameland you can pick up your bikes at the terminal to discover the island. The best way to explore the island is by bike. So only pack what you can carry.


Note to self: if you want to bring your riding equipment, you just have space left for your swimsuit

Travel advise: Only pack what you can carry.

Nature is a true beauty on Ameland. Don’t forgot to go on a boattrip to meet the most relaxing lads I have ever seen. Book a tour on www.robbenboot.nl

Scouting for seals

The essential joy of riding a horse is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit and freedom. There is no better feeling than galloping on the beach. With The Blinkert stables you can book a riding tour to explore the island’s beauty.

The best feeling in the world.

Just get on your bike and enjoy the typical Dutch landscape and do not forget to stop at one of the many beachbars. There are lovely and authentic restaurants in the city centre of Nes. Seafood is a must.

If you never go, you will never know.

Life is like riding a bicycle, in order to stay balanced you need to keep on moving. Weekend trips in nature are a temporarely taste of freedom from all the fuss and frustration in our lives. That is why we crave the open road so badly, it is a chance to let go.

Goodbye Ameland, back to reality.

New York

In New York I started a new adventure and accomplished a goal I had set for myself years ago: My first trip as a solo traveller.

My ultimate travel bucket list

When you arrive at JFK the easiest way to get to the city centre is by taxi. It is hard not to find a taxi in New York. Just put your hands in the air and within 5 minutes you are on your way. The public transport from the airport takes long and is not very convenient. Once you are in NYC you can easily go by metro.

Shopping paradise

As it was my first solo trip I had to endulge myself to a 5th avenue apartment to stay for the weekend right in the middle of Shopping paradise.

The Netherlands monument on Wall street

The best thing about having a jetleg is waking up before everyone else to avoid the massive crowds in the city that never sleeps. My first stop on the metroline was Wall street, the historical part of NYC where I got lost multiple times to finally stumble upon the famous bull and the Netherlands monument.

Brooklyn bridge before the crowds take over.

Half the fun of travelling is getting lost and explore new places. On Wall street I found Irish pubs and Swedish Fika coffee bars, a little europe on the other side of the ocean.

Statue of Liberty

Take a free ferry from the terminal on Wall street to Staten Island to get a perfect view on the statue of liberty.

Explore Soho and West Village

On my second day I decided to explore Soho, West Village and the Meat packing district. The typical New York homes you can find in West Village, try to find SATC’s Carrie Bradshaw’s home on 66 Perry street.

NYC: the only city where the Crocs shop is next to Chanel.

After a shopping spree in Soho I went to visit my favourite New York area: The Meatpacking district where you can find lovely foodcourts in Chelsea market and a beergarten hidden under the high line. Perfect for solo travellers.

Empire state of mind

On my last day I had the visit the last NYC highlights. I started at the Empire state building, followed by Times Square and finished in Central park. On top of the Rockefeller Center you can see the whole city. This was the longest city walk I took so far but worth every step of it.

Grand central station.

After visiting Grand Central station my NYC trip came to an end. As I said goodbye to the city, a yellow taxi came to pick me up and dropped me off at the airport right on time to catch my plane from New Amsterdam to old Amsterdam.

Curacao

In this blog I will explain to you why Curacao needs to be on your travel bucketlist. Besides the picture perfect of Caribbean holidays, Curacao has so much more to offer.

Jan Thiel Baai

Bring your snorkel, step into the ocean and pretend to be a mermaid while meeting new friends exploring the clear blue underwater world. Never have we seen so many different colours and shapes of fish, turtles and dolphins. We found paradise.

Queen Emma bridge aka the swinging old lady.

The cheapest solution to the travel around Curacao is by bus. The only thing is that you are never sure if the bus shows up on time or at all. Because we missed our bus stop at the dolphin training academy and ended up in Punda, we found ourselves wandering the colourful streets of Willemstad. Some things are meant to be.

Swimming with dolphins at the Curacao Dolphin Academy.

Go where you dreams take you. I would rather look back at my life and say I cannot believe I did that instead of saying I wish I did that. So we went swimming with dolphins in the open sea. Dreams came true that day.

Our favourite beachbar: Koko’s at Jan Thiel beach

We stayed at Morena, a lovely eco resort next to Jan Thiel beach. We have been spending most of our time around Jan Thiel beach just relaxing, reading and enjoying the local cuisine and cocktails. And the area comes with free wifi, a must for a 10 year old.

A collection of our favourite beachbars

One of the sights we had to visit was the flamingo sanctuary. We went on a 10km hiking trail through the old colonial salt plains where now wild flamingo’s claimed their residence. It was extremely hot but definitely worth it. We can now claim to have befriended wild flamingo’s.

Hiking through the salt plains.

Travel makes you realize that no matter how much you know, there is always more to learn. Every trip we take teaches us more about history, culture, nature and wildlife.

And remember, not all classrooms have four walls.