Bali

We have been planning our trip to Bali for a long time. Two years ago a dear friend of mine was going on a solo trip to Bali to find herself. We joined her to help her find her way the first couple of weeks around. Well, that was the idea. The unfortunate case of events happened that my passport was expiring within 6 months so we were not allowed to enter Indonesia. This nightmare has been haunting me for years. But fears need to be conquered so that’s why we decided to give Bali another chance.

The greatest gifts we can give our children are roots and wings

As we are staying in Kuta but also want to travel and explore the island you can easily find drivers to take you all over Bali. As all drivers are local, they can help you find the hidden gems on your way. Recommendations from friends and family are best but you can find many tours online. We found our drivers on Tripadvisor. Just check the reviews.

Once upon a time…. (Tirta Ganga)

On top of our bucketlist is meeting elephants. We found an elephant sanctuary in Ubud where we could not only meet elephants but also wash and brush them. Dreams came true that day. Look at those shiny manes.

Working at the Jumbo Wash

After a series of narrow roads we found a perfect lunch spot on the lake side with an astonishing view on the volcano Mount Batur. Bear in mind that this volcano is still active and the last eruption was only two years ago.

Today’s lunch view is astonishing. And the food as well, 6 spring rolls and counting.

When you are visiting Bali you cannot leave without visiting the rice terraces. The rice fields are part of Bali’s ancient rice growing culture. The emerald rice fields will exhaust your ability to describe the word green and are a must on your trip to Bali. We finished our hiking trip with the Insta famous jungle swing.

It’d be fun they said…. Mama, you can go first. And so I did. Never again.
One of the most terrifying things I have ever done in my life.

The Balinese Hindu Temple Pura Lempuyang is one of the most popular and sacred temples on the island. The Gate of Heaven (Pura Lempuyang) has recently become famous due to countless photos posted on Instagram.

Picture perfect at the Gate of Heaven

If you want to have the same photograph taken, bear in mind that the queue for taking your photograph can take up to 2 hours. Make sure you arrive at the temple at 8am so there is no tourist to be found yet and you will have the temple to yourself.

Following the famous stepping stones at Tirta Gannga

Tirta Gangga literally means water from the Ganges. Strictly, the name refers to the water palace built here in 1946 by the King of Karangasem. Today it is one of the hotspots to visit when in Bali. The palace is absolutely stunning but overcrowded by tourists. We bought fish food to feed the fish but they kindly declined our offer for a snack. These fish are severly overweight due the all the tourists that feed them to take their perfect photograph to claim Insta fame.

And so the snorkeling adventure begins

The blue lagoon is the best place to go snorkelling. Local fishermen took us to the best spot in the Indian ocean on a traditional boat. Cheap and lovely experience. So many fish in different shapes and colours. It is an absolute dream to explore the coral and pretending to be mermaids.

Virgin beach

Picture a desert island, fringed by a white sand beach and coconut palms, sitting in a turquoise sea: Virgin beach is a vision of paradise. And luckily still a hidden gem in East Bali.

Tanah Lot

One of the most popular sights in Bali is Tanah Lot. It’s the most visited and photographed temple but it has the authenticity of a stage set. Especially overly crowded with tourists and vendors around the overhyped sunsets. So the best time to visit is before noon and after you can watch the sunset from one of the many beachbars.

A must for coffee and tea lovers

When traveling to Indonesia you must to try Kopi Luwak coffee (a.k.a. Cat poop coffee) at least once. Visiting a coffee and tea plantation is a must for all coffee and tea lovers. We had a hard time picking our favourites.

Tradition al Indonesian fire dance show

You will be haunted for hours after you see a Kecak performance. The sounds of dozens of men chanting and singing more than an hour is bewitching and mesmerising. The movements of de dancers seem impossibly robotic and rigidly controlled.

Bali is more than a place. It’s a mood, it’s magical. It’s a tropical state of mind and we never want to leave.

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.

Iceland

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.

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.

Picking your own tulips

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.

Maastricht

Maastricht is one of the most charming cities in the Netherlands and it can be easily explored in a weekend. In this blogpost you can read exactly why you need to visit Maastricht.

Magical Maastricht

Maastricht is the perfect place for a weekend away and it almost feels like going abroad. Wandering the tangled streets, exploring the historic caves, and eating and drinking out at one of the many restaurants and cafe’s. For architecture and food lovers Maastricht definitely the place to be.

Crossing the Maas river

Maastricht is known for shopping, my daughter’s favourite thing to do. The walk along the Maas river to the shopping streets is absolutely beautiful. You’ll also find a few cafes on the riverside with a gorgeous view over the city.

Maastricht still has the original city walls and gate from the old days. One of the magical parts about this city is wandering along the historic streets and be amazed with all the ancient architecture along the way. At this moment the city gate is under construction which means we need to visit Maastricht again. Jasmine would definitely not mind going back to shopping paradise.

History everywhere in Maastricht

Another must visit are the caves and caverns of Maastricht. The Maastricht Underground is a collection of caves which originates back to the 13th century.

The caves were originally dug to mine marl. Over time the caves formed a network so vast that it was used for other purposes.

During World War II, the caves were used to store many valuables such as paintings that could be used against the Germans. Also military equipment was stored there such as 30 tanks. Over 6000 citizens took shelter in the caves during World War II.

Dominikanen Bookstore

Another spot you cannot miss when visiting Maastricht is the Dominikanen Bookstore. A must for booklovers. This bookstore is located in a Catholic church. Instead of praying at the altar, you can drink a cappuccino and start reading your freshly bought books.  

The breakfast club

Our hotel was located just off the Vrijthof square. This square is best known for the annual Andre Rieu concerts and is beautifully set up. The hotel was completely designed in vintage style and on a walking distance to explore the whole city. And yes, we had the famous Vlaai pastries for breakfast.

Goodbye Maastricht, you were a fairytale in real life

Beekse Bergen

As we are still stuck in the Netherlands, we decided to make the best out of it and explore the worlds within the Dutch borders

For this weekend we decided to spend a couple of days in Tilburg. We booked ourselves a nice hotel room with a bath tub which we don’t have at home so whenever we go somewhere we always check the bathroom options. It’s the little things in life that makes the trip more magical.

Pink bath soap that smells like donuts, what else could a girl wish for.

After a luxury breakfast and a morning swim in the pool we went back on the road to go on safari.

Almost like the real thing

Safari Park Beekse Bergen that is because we can still not travel abroad.

What to wear on an African Safari…

Under the Dutch sunshine walking passed all these amazing area’s with different wildlife is as good as it gets.

The car wash crew

Even though we had a great experience, we have not been released of the itch of going to Africa. So as soon as we can explore the world again we’re booking our tickets to the real deal.

Goodbye fake Africa for now

Giethoorn

Due to the Covid outbreak we have not been able to follow our mission to travel the world together. Time for a change. This team is now on a quest to find the most beautiful places to visit within the Dutch borders.

Our first stop is the idyllic town of Giethoorn. The village without roads straight out of a fairytale book.

Aye, Aye Captain

Giethoorn is a village in the county of Overijssel. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Amsterdam, and besides for being known as picture perfect, this town has no roads or any sort of modern transportation at all, only canals. And 176 bridges. Which only adds to its picturesque charm.

By boat is the best way to explore Giethoorn

Most of the houses and cottages have thatched roofs so it feels a little as if you have stepped back in time.

Find your flow and row, row, row.

After a walk along the canal admiring the pretty homes, the best way to explore Giethoorn is by renting a boat or canoe. I would advise to book in advance online so you are sure there’s one for you available.

Making friends along the way.

During the Covid period only Dutch residents can visit the village, so you can imagine how peaceful it is. Giethoorn can be overly crowded with visiting tourists, follow the waterways out of town and find yourself rowing into a calm lake where all sorts of animals keep you company on your trip.

Nature’s best.

Leave the roads and take the trails, adventure is closer than you think.

Irish Scones

Scones

500 gr. plain flower

5 ts Baking powder

1/2 ts Salt

75 gr. Butter

2 Eggs

175 ml Greek Yoghurt

100 gr Sultanas

Mix it all and put them in the oven for 15 minutes and your scones are ready to be served!

Bonaire

A small island with a desert landscape. The ultimate place for divers and snorkelers who want to immerse themselves in that vibrant world under the sea.

Klein Bonaire, one of the best places to go snorkeling.

The beauty of Bonaire is that the coral reef is a national park. Yellow stones along the roads are indicators that there is a diving and snorkeling spot. Bear in mind that you need to get a Stinapa tag to use the national parks. You can apply for one online and you need to be able to show your tag when requested.

Peaceful mind, grateful heart.

About 1km off the coast of Kralendijk there is a small deserted island called Klein Bonaire. The most perfect No Name Beach is found here. There are no facilities available so bring snacks and lots of water along. You can get a return ticket from Kralendijk for a water taxi for 20 dollars per person.

Always follow your dreams

As you probably know by now is that every trip we take at some point needs to have horses involved, no exception on Bonaire.

The day Poco and I went swimming together.

Swimming with horses, another bucket list goal to tick off. And needless to say an absolutely amazing experience for these equestrian girls. To go swimming with horses you can contact one of the ranches on the island to book a tour.

Kralendijk

The beautiful candy coloured houses makes you feel like walking around in a tropical fairytale land.

Kralendijk is so small that you can walk up and down within 30 minutes and see most of the city. It has everything you need from cute shops, lovely restaurants and good Italian coffee and ice-cream.

Belgian Waffles and French Crepes on Bonaire

According to Jasmine the best part of travelling to the Dutch Caribbean is that you can find all your favourite food and drinks on the islands. Which means we had dinner twice at the local snackbar ordering fries and kroketten.

On the lookout for Flamingos.

These pink salt flats are amazing feeding areas for our magical friends. Bonaire’s landscape is mostly flat but despite the desolation the island is rich with bird life, including the iconic pink flamingo and many colourful parrots.

On the edge of Washington Slagbaai National Park you can find this large salt water lagoon. It attracts flocks of Flamingos especially during nesting season.

Out of Office

You can’t get too close to these shy feathered pink friends. Once they are interrupted, they will not return to the same spot for months.

Washington Slagbaai National Park

Boka Slagbaai is the host for many activities such as bird watching, snorkeling and cliff jumping. The picture above is taken on the cliff jumping spot where we took the walk of shame back to the picnic area.

The wild part of the island

The amazing national Slagbaai Park is a protected area where you can find many ecological wonders. This spot is where sea turtles come to lay their eggs. On our next visit we hopefully can watch a nest hatch and help baby turtles to get to the sea in safety.

Slavehuts

Along the coast you will see the legacy of a vile chapter in Bonaire’s past. These stone huts were built as residencies for the slaves who worked at the salt mines. The slaves homes were in Rincon so every Friday afternoon they would take a 7 hour hike to the other end of the island to spend a day at home, returning on Sunday back to work at the mines.

Hello Curacao

Right before departure back to Amsterdam, the landing gear of our plane got stuck on the runway after being pulled back to far. After spending the night at Flamingo Airport we were transferred to a luxury resort on Curacao because there was simply nothing else available…

It’s a hard knock life for us.

London

This year’s annual family trip went to the best seasonal dressed city in the world: London. When you love Christmas, London is the place to be.

Hold on tight and let me take you on the ultimate London Christmas Itinerary.

Westminster Abbey

We found a perfect apartment in Westminster through Trivago to host us for the weekend. I always wanted to have an apartment in London city and when we were handed our keys, it felt almost as entering our new home.

Princess Jasmine at Buckingham Palace

Begin with the West End big-draw sights: Westminster Abbey, then Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guards. Please check the website before to go to get the latest information. We were waiting patiently at 11 to see the changing of the guards when a police officer notified us that today’s changing had been rescheduled to Windsor Caste.

When in London….

Walk up to Parliament Square through St. James’s Park to meet Big Ben, The London Eye and the Houses of Parliament. The best thing about visiting ancient cities is that you find most top sights all together in the old centre. You will find some odd inhabitants at the park such a parrots and obese squirrels.

No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle (Winston Churchill).

Following the river Thames you will find the Churchill War Rooms and No 10 Downing street. After this extensive history class, the little mini fashionista felt she needed to go to Oxford street for a bit of fun and shopping. And so this itinerary continues. Luckily all underground trains lead to Oxford street, Regent street and Piccadilly Circus.

Carnaby street, the place to go when you are hungry and cold after a shopping spree.

After having a lovely breakfast at Cambridge Street our journey continues at the Tower of London. The unmissable Tower of London (actually a castle of 22 towers) offers a window into a gruesome and compelling history. A former royal residence but is perhaps most remembered as the prison where a king, three queens and many nobles met their deaths. A must for history lovers like me.

Tower of London

After visiting the Tower of London we continued our path following the river Thames towards St. Paul’s Cathedral. One of the world’s most stunning cathedrals and definitely a must to visit when in London.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Walking back to the river Thames from St. Paul’s Cathedral you will find the Millennium Bridge. From this bridge you will have the best view on the the Tower Bridge.

The iconic Tower Bridge

And so our weekend trip to London came to an end.

London, you were lovely.

As always.

XX

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.

Veluwe

Dutch people voted the Veluwe as the finest area of scenic beauty in the country. It is where forests, sand drifts, steppes and heathlands form a stunning natural landscape.

And where you can spot the Dutch ‘Big Five’: foxes, badgers, deer and wild boar as well as Highland cattle, beavers and hundreds of other mammals, birds, reptiles and insects.

And this is the place we call home when we are not travelling the world.

Okay, we’re off camping! Back to nature. Off the grid. If you need to contact us, send a pigeon.

The Veluwe region has more to offer than just a stunning nature scape. It is home to a number of medieval towns such as Harderwijk, Elburg and Hattum. These towns have been around longer than cities such as Amsterdam or Rotterdam.

Our hometown Harderwijk

There are numerous friendly spots to find in the cities to have a drink or dinner. The fact is that we have more pubs, restaurants, hotels, festivals and camping sites than shops or office buildings.

Our top3 favourite places to eat or have a drink:

  1. Walhalla. (Beach bar)
  2. Holy Moly. (Cocktails and Mexican food)
  3. De Boterlap (featured below)
Food and drinks, so many places to go and try.

From there you can go on long bike rides, hiking trips or horse riding trails to explore the stunning woods and get lost to find some peace and serenity before returning home.

Never lose your inner child.

As we obviously lead a full and busy life, it is important to stress out sometimes. We found the perfect way to do so. When our stress levels are high, we go camping in the woods. A couple of days back to nature, no phone, computer or other electronic devices and being totally off the grid works miracles for your mindset.

Away is a place where it’s not about the money you spend. It’s about the moments you share.

Our favourite camping site is next to the restaurant Boshuis Drie and practically for free. You pay a small amount to set up your tent and in return you can use the restrooms. Every night the ranger sets a campfire where you can roast your marshmallows. The ultimate camping experience.

The urban legend about Solse gat says that the lost Abbey and monks reappears at nightfall. 
So these Ghostbusters went back to their tent before nightfall

A fun experience is renting a donkey to go hiking and explore the countryside. You can do so at the Koperen ezel in Epe. Bart was such good company and carried our bags all the way during the hike. Such a gentleman.

Me and Bart on a picnic

Encouraging a child to play outside in all weather builds resillience, creativity and problem solving skills. So go out and become an adventurer!