Istanbul

A rich historical land with some of the best cuisine you will ever taste, diverse scenery from beaches to mountains and the great city of Istanbul. With these words in mind we planned a trip to the magical city of Istanbul.

How to spend 3 epic days in Istanbul. We’re about to find out. Turkey, here we come.

As a child I always loved the stories told by Scheherazade in Arabian nights and I always wanted a taste of the magical atmosphere of these tales. Topkapi palace offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of Ottoman sultans, royal wives, children, concubines, eunuchs and servants. The palace takes you back to the place where these stories originated from.

Daily life in imperial court.

Istanbul is the only city to straddle two continents, separated by the sea of Marmara. You cannot leave Istanbul without visiting both continents, a scenic ferry ride between the shores is definitely the best way to travel.

A scenic ferry ride brings you from Europe to Asia.

One of the wonders of the historical world is definitely Aya Sophia. This church of holy wisdom (Hagia Sophia) and exceptional architecture and beauty was later converted to a mosque. Nowadays this church brings both religions peacefully together.

Hagia Sophia: From church to mosque to museum.

Go for a walk and explore the colourful area of Balat. This is one of the oldest and most spectacular districts of Istanbul. Perhaps the most iconic part is the district’s colourful houses along sloping cobbled streets. The neighbourhood is incredible welcoming and definitely the place where you can find the best spots to have coffee with something sweet.

The best desserts are found in Balat.

Istanbul’s most photogenic building must be the Blue Mosque. When you are visiting the Blue Mosque make sure you are dressed accordingly. The Mosque is a popular attraction that admissions are controlled to preserve its sacred atmosphere.

The best views can be found from one of the many rooftop bars in the city.

Our hotel was located in the Beyoglu area, ideally located on a walking distance to all the main sights and the best location to find a nostalgic Turkish restaurant, lovely boutique shops or one of the few pubs that are serving cocktails.

Beyoglu; the area where the best cocktails are served.

The colourful and chaotic Grand Bazaar is the heart of Istanbul’s old city and has been for centuries. Crawl through the labyrinth and when you find something interesting, try your hand at the art of bargaining.

The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. The place where you can find things you do not need, for a price you do not want to buy it for.

Another sight that is worth visiting is Basilica Cistern. A so called underground palace from the Roman days that can take you back in time instantly.

Basilica Cistern: The underground ghost palace.

The easiest way from the airport to the city is by taxi. The ride can be a challenging experience. We said our prayers during our time in a Turkish taxi, never have we been in reverse on the motorway when our driver missed his exit, offered a smoke and been ripped off during the same ride. But we made it in one piece. Luckily.

Aachen

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!

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…

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.