Visiting the “Game of Thrones” destinations

The HBO drama Game Of Thrones has had an incredible effect on modern culture. As you probably know, the show itself has become one of the most popular television dramas of all time (and the show is not done yet).

Game of Thrones has launched careers, catapulted HBO to even higher levels of prestige, and before it’s all said and done it is going to lead to even more TV shows. The show is a hit almost unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the industry!

The drama also played a role in promoting the book series upon which it is largely based. Many people probably don’t realize that A Game Of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, the first book in the series A Song Of Ice And Fire, was actually first published in 1996. It was essentially another forgotten fantasy novel (and series) until it
got picked up as a TV series and millions of people around the world realized how deep and thrilling the novels were.

Naturally Game Of Thrones has also inspired a fair amount of activity in the gaming world. The longest running game might just be a slot arcade on the internet, which Microgaming calls heart-stoppingly exciting. That’s quite an exaggeration,
but it sure is a game that’s true to the spirit of the show. Other games, including a noteworthy series from Telltale, do more to help you feel as if you can control your own narrative within the Thrones world.
The most surprising impact of Game Of Thrones, however, might be how it has inspired people to leap into the world of the show in a more literal sense. One of the things that makes the show so compelling is that it takes place in absolutely breathtaking locations. Many of them have been altered through CGI so that castles and walls and the like
can appear in the show, but most are still essentially real world places. Most of those places have been seeing tourists who are there specifically because of the show.

These are a few of the destinations people are frequenting (and which you might want to visit)

Dubrovnik, Croatia

This is undoubtedly the main Game Of Thrones tourism destination, if you will. Already an incredibly picturesque Mediterranean getaway, Dubrovnik has been used as the basis for King’s Landing, one of the most important and iconic Thrones sets. The city is actually taking steps to curb tourism following an unprecedented surge. But it’s still amazing to visit should you get the chance!

Dubrovnik

Seville, Spain

Seville is another destination that was popular long before the show, and will remain popular long after its run comes to an end. The city is known for old Moorish architecture, beautiful cathedrals, and even the tomb of Christopher Columbus.
But its royal palace of Alcazar was also used for one of the prettier locations in the show: the water gardens at Sunspear.

Seville

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is listed here as a whole country because it’s actually responsible for a lot of the better-known shots in the show. The beaches of Downhill Strand were used to film scenes at Dragonstone (and do make for a fantasy-like beach view). Dunluce Castle on the coast was turned into the Castle of Pyke on the Iron Islands using CGI. And the
so-called Dark Hedges that line Bregagh Road in County Antrim were used as the Kingsroad in the show.
These are more sights to see than destinations to travel to, but if you’re a big fan of the show and/or its scenery, a tour of Northern Ireland is vital.

Dark Hedges

Doune Castle, Scotland

Doune Castle isn’t the most picturesque destination on this list, but it might be the most important pilgrimage for true fans of the books and show. It is a 14th century castle in Scotland, and incidentally may be best known now as a film location for Monty Python And The Holy Grail. However, where this show is concerned, Doune
Castle was the underlying fortification around which the visual teams built Winterfell the home of the good guys, so to speak.

Doune Castle

Split, Croatia

Split is one of the true hidden gems of Europe not in that it’s unknown, but in that it some how seems to escape tourists bucket lists (probably because of the spotlight on Dubrovnik). Split is basically a peninsula in the Adriatic Sea and a
sprawling, gorgeous city that was once the home of the Roman emperor Diocletian. Game Of Thrones used the hillside ruin of Klis Fortress to build up the image of the fictional city of Mereen, and in doing so sneakily showed off one of the more beautiful destinations in the Mediterranean.

Klis Split

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Getting to know Andorra – the European microstate

After celebrating Christmas Eve in a cozy little cabin in the Pyrenees (the mountain range between the French and the Spanish border), you would have thought we’d be spending Christmas Day cozying up in blankets on the couch while binge-eating leftovers and watching jolly old Christmas flicks on TV. But, as the cabin wasn’t ours, we instead spent the early hours packing away all the decorations, all the gifts and our belongings, before handing over the keys to the owner and getting back in the car. We didn’t want to go home quite yet, though. After all, we were only a one hour drive away from Andorra; the micro-state you might have heard of, and probably don’t know anything about at all.

Well, neither did I. Except from it being a tiny place up in the Pyrenean mountains somewhere. For some reason, I also always thought it was Spanish. Turns out it’s French. Fun fact; the elected president of France automatically becomes the prince of Andorra during his presidency. Which means, currently Emmanuel Macron is a prince.

Even though Andorra is technically French, the locals don’t speak the language. Not as a first language, anyway. You see, when we first arrived in Andorra, we went to the nearest gas station to tank (as the prices are way lower than in France) and used the opportunity to go to the bathroom while we were there. Having just learned that Andorra is French, we didn’t think twice before greeting the staff with a Bonjour and asking if we could use les toilettes. The guy and the girl behind the counter looked rather offended, and pointed towards a sign that said “lavabos” – which, in Catalan, means bathrooms. Gotcha.

Driving into the capital city, we saw more and more restaurant signs, street signs and billboards written in Catalan. Some in Spanish, too. And occasionally, a sign here and there written in French. The official language is, yeah you guessed it; Catalan.

“Tax-free” as it is, Andorra is quite a popular destination for money-saving shopaholics, smokers, drinkers and fill-the-cupboards-with-all-sorts-of-bargains kinda food-shoppers. With its Tax Haven-reputation, it’s not really surprising that Andorra attracts a lot of deep pocketed expatriates, driving around in their fancy cars and flaunting their wealth.

andorra la vella

But Andorra is so much more than just that. Home to Europe’s largest spa complex (Caldea), and a popular holiday destination for those who enjoy skiing, after-skiing, and (my favorite) relaxing in a jacuzzi or an indoor pool in one of the charming mountain resorts.

Sadly, my in-laws, my boyfriend and I, didn’t get to enjoy the spa (closed) nor shopping (closed), and not even the ski stations (no ski equipment). That’s how it is when you’re foolish enough to leave the house on Christmas Day. Nothing is open. Everyone’s at home watching Christmas flicks and cocooning on the couch. Just like we’d normally do.

Despite (mostly) everything being closed, the hours spent visiting Andorra were totally worth it. Driving past snow-covered mountains and stopping to take photos, releasing my inner child while enjoying a little snowball fight by the road, and just being there, breathing in the fresh mountain air and feeling the firmness of the old snow under our shoes. Now, that sure beats laying on the couch in front of the TV.

andorra

The mountains were, without a doubt, the greatest highlight from our half day spent in Andorra, and it is without a doubt what I will be visiting again, next time I make the two hour trip from where I live (Toulouse) to this little micro-state in the Pyrenean mountains. Whether I’ll be visiting while the mountains are still snow-covered, or wait until summer and hiking season is at its peak, remains to see.

One thing is certain, though. Whenever I decide to go back to Andorra, it will be for the nature.

We did make our way to the capital city, and sadly it didn’t really leave an impact on me. Maybe it’s more vibrant when the shops are open, or whenever there’s some kind of event going on in the city. But, it would have to take a lot of convincing to make me want to go back.

andorra la vella landmark

Andorra la Vella is a small city with a couple of interesting landmarks, such as the church l’Església de Sant Esteve and pieces of art, such as “La Noblesse du Temps” by surrealist Salvador Dali – and a lot of shops targeted towards duty-free scouting tourists.

andorra landmarks

You can easily visit the city by foot, as the downtown area is quite small and limited in terms of things to do.

andorra view

What else is there to do in Andorra, besides the things already mentioned?

  • Visit the theme park Naturlandia; a park divided into two areas, differentiated by their altitude. Ski rental, snow mobiles, bobsleigh, hiking, buggie rides, an animal park – and plenty more activities suitable for both adults and children!
  • Get to know the local gastronomy. Dine in one of the traditional bordas and enjoy the traditional Pyrenees-cuisine!
  • Visit the Valls del Comapedrosa Nature Park – a national park in the northwest of Andorra. Perfect for those who enjoy hiking, camping, nature photography and other fun activities in the nature – such as geocaching, a fun  sporting activity involving a search for hidden treasures by using your GPS!

Before you go…

  • Remember to bring your passport, when driving into Andorra from Spain or France.
  • Don’t worry about currency exchanges, if coming from the neighboring countries. The local currency is Euros.
  • There’s no rail service in Andorra, so if you’re planning to visit the country without a car, your best option will be to take a bus from la Seu d’Urgell or Barcelona in Spain, or from Perpignan in France.
  • The closest airport is Andorra-La Seu d’Urgell Airport in Spain.

pyrenees

roads andorra

place de la biere

andorra view roads

andorra christmas

andorra capital

andorra la vella

andorra la vella river

la noblesse du temps

 

7 Ways for Women to Stay Safe While Traveling

Guest post by Jeff (blogger, Cabulous.com )

Undoubtedly traveling alone is empowering and makes you confident but sometimes solo traveling can cause you a very big trouble. Therefore, everyone should take precautionary measures in order to safeguard themselves from all sorts of problems and troubles. When a woman is traveling alone then it is mandatory for her to take some extra precautionary measures in order to be safe throughout the journey. Nowadays it is seen that many women are traveling alone either for business purposes or to spend some quality time alone. Some of the safe traveling tips are as follows.

Give Details to your Family Member:

Before leaving home you should give proper details about your destination. At least one person in your family should know where you are going and where you are going to stay. This will help you and your family in case something goes wrong.

Safety Mechanism:

While traveling solo as a woman you should have every safety precaution. The safety mechanisms like cat key chains and pepper sprays should be present in your hand-carry. This will make you feel safe and protective because you know that if something goes wrong or someone tries to harass you then you can use these safety products to protect yourself.

Selfie Stick:

If you don’t want to hand over your phone or camera to someone else for capturing your pictures then you should carry selfie stick with you. It will benefit you in many ways. You will be able to take your pictures by yourself without handing over your camera or phone to a stranger. You can also use as a safety tool which will benefit you in self-defense.

Never Appear Alone:

Even if you are traveling alone you don’t have to tell anyone that you are traveling solo. When you tell strangers that you are traveling with a bunch of people they will think hundred times before harming or hurting you. And when you tell them that you are alone on your journey then they will harm you without any fear. Therefore, you should not identify anyone that you are traveling solo.

Carry Torch:

No matter where you are going you should have a torch in your handbag. Sometimes people got stuck in dark places and they don’t have a thing which can provide light to them. Therefore, you should have a torch or light bar and the best 44 LED Light Bars are perfect to provide you very bright light.

Keep Money at Different Places:

Most tourists get robbed and mugged. In order to be on the safe side, you should not keep all your money in one place. Keep some amount of your money in your handbag and keep some in your pockets. This will help you even if you get robbed.

Dress Normally:

If you will dress in an extraordinary and outstanding manner then everyone in the surroundings will stare you and some will even try to mug you. So it is better to dress like local people. This will prevent you from getting robbed as well as prevent you from unwanted attention.

Author Bio:

jeff

Jeff lives in New York with his wife and 2 kids. He is obsessed with LED light bars ever since they came out and over the last couple of years he has been testing and reviewing LED light bars. He regularly blogs at Cabulous.com

Why Beuvron-en-Auge is one of the most beautiful villages in France

It is one of the most beautiful villages in France (according to Les plus beaux villages de France), this picture perfect village called Beuvron (Beuvron-en-Auge) – and it’s easy to see why!

The village is located in the Calvados department (in Normandy), in the heart of the very popular and touristic Cider Route – and only 12 kilometers away from the beautiful botanical garden in Cambremer and 15 kilometers away from the lovely beach town Cabourg.

normande

The Calvados department is blessed with gorgeous towns and villages, which makes it the perfect destination for those of us who enjoy road tripping through the countryside of la France. Those of us who prefer visiting the country by car, as it gives us the opportunity to make a few stops here and there to pick up some local specialties, take a few photos, have a nice little picnic in the countryside – and just enjoy the beauty of the country that gave us camembert, macarons and Chanel.

Which reminds me, Camembert cheese does actually come from Normandy!

When you think of Normandy, you probably think of more than just the famous cheese, though. You probably think of half-timbered houses, old historical towns, delicious cider and charming countryside. Maybe you’ve made plans to visit the region for a romantic getaway with your significant other?

Well, in that case, you are gonna love Beuvron!

Because, Beuvron is a great example of one of those typical Normandy villages. Fairy tale houses, a quaint village square and lots and lots of beautiful flower displays. Everywhere. Most of the buildings in the village date back to the 17th century – and some even date all the way back to the 15th century!

cafe beuvron

Beuvron is for cider lovers

While in Beuvron, I made sure to purchase a few bottles of cider to take home as a souvenir, from Cidre Calvados Desvoye – a producer of cider, calvados (apple brandy) and pommeau (apple brandy mixed with apple juice). French cider is generally low in alcohol, and is best enjoyed accompanied by sweet crêpes or savory galettes. Mmm, crêpes…

Every year in October, there’s the Fête du Cidre – a Cider Festival in Beuvron!

The festival offers you the opportunity to watch the great apple-pressing take place on the village square, and you’ll also get to taste a wide variety of different ciders from local producers. I don’t know about you, but I sure wouldn’t turn down a proper cider tasting!

normandy

…And those who love flowers

The village has been awarded three flowers in the village fleuri contest – a contest organized annually in France, which aims to encourage communes to improve the quality of life of their inhabitants and enhance their attractiveness to visitors/tourists by maintaining their green spaces and enhancing their natural environments.

Beuvron-en-Auge is a small village, but it’s filled with beautiful flowers of different sizes and colors – which again adds to the charm and the postcard perfect look that the village is known (and appreciated) for.

If you happen to plan your visit to the village around spring, you should most definitely check out the Fête des Gèraniums flower festival in Beuvron. It’s an annual event which takes place the first week of May –  to celebrate spring!

flowers normandy

Things you should taste when in Beuvron-en-Auge

  • Obviously, the famous Normandy cider. The classic apple cider, of course!
  • You might wanna try the pear cider, too. It’s delicious.
  • Calvados. It’s strong, very strong. But definitely worth trying!
  • Pommeau. Which is not as strong as Calvados – but with a similar taste.
  • Tarte Normande. Normandy style apple tart.
  • Chausson aux pommes. Light puff pastry filled with chunky apple compote.
  • Crêpes filled with apple slices and cream (I tried this deliciousness from the Boulangerie Durant)

If the weather is nice, there’s a lovely area with picnic tables – not far from the parking. Bring your pastries and dig into the yummy sweet treats while enjoying the beautiful view!

Where to eat in Beuvron

  • For tasty galettes and crêpes, check out the crêperie La Colomb’Auge. Try a galette with cheese from Normandy on it (Camembert, Neufchâtel, Livarot or Pont-L’Evêque) and an apple-filled crêpe. Yum!
  • Celebrating a special occasion or planning to propose to your loved one? There’s a Michelin-starred restaurant in Beuvron. Le Pavé d’Auge welcomes you to a romantic venue (with a traditional fireplace) and offers you a discovery for your eyes and your taste buds.

half timbered

Where to sleep in Beuvron

Personally, I consider Beuvron-en-Auge as more of a day trip kind of destination, and I’m scared I’d be bored spending more than a demi-journée exploring the village. But maybe that’s just me.

But for those of you traveling to Beuvron to visit one of the festivals, or those of you who plan to arrive late in the evening and want to make the most of your stay the following day, I can totally see how you’d rather be spending a night (or two) at a Bed&Breakfast, rather than getting back in the car after a couple of hours spent in the village.

Let’s not forget those of you who prefer quiet villages over vibrant cities, anyway.

And all you creative creatures out there, I’m sure you wanna get up before sunrise, to do photography without a bunch of tourists blocking your shot.

And let’s not forget those of you who plan to visit Beuvron for a romantic getaway with your partner.

And those of you who plan to do a whole lot of Calvados-tasting and worry you won’t be fit to drive anywhere afterwards.

Whatever your reason is, here’s a list of some charming Bed&Breakfasts in Beuvron – with great reviews, of course!

  • Only a few steps away from the Michelin-starred restaurant there’s a charming Bed&Breakfast with fully equipped rooms (Le Pavé d’Hôtes). You can have your breakfast served in the breakfast room, in your room – or in the beautiful garden.
  • Another traditional Normandy house. For those looking for that romantic atmosphere; check out the cozy Bed&Breakfast Le Pressoir!
  • Located right in the heart of the village, the lovely Bed&Breakfast Aux Trois Damoiselles is for those who love country chic interior (the rooms).

epicerie

portrait

Below is a couple of video clips I put together from my trip to Beuvron-en-Auge.

 

Fall in love with Honfleur – the city favored by the impressionists

This summer I visited Honfleur for the second time within the space of two years. Last time, it was me who fell head over heels in love with this charming little city. This time it was my parents’ turn to go “wow” and “aww” while admiring the port, the buildings, the boats, the atmosphere.

I remember that feeling. Being an art lover and all, I probably felt it even stronger than they did.

vieux bassin

“I know I’ve seen this place before”, I thought to myself as my boyfriend and I arrived at the port of Honfleur, two years ago, while road tripping through Normandy.

I was right. I had seen the port before. Through the eyes of Claude Monet and other impressionists. Honfleur is, and always has been, a city favored by artistic souls – and that is one of the reasons why it’s such a popular destination for tourists from all over the world.

narrow street

As you stroll along the many narrow cobblestone streets of Honfleur, you’ll notice a great variety of art galleries of different sizes and artisan workshops of different sorts.

And, last but not least, there’s also an artisan chocolaterie in Honfleur. Mmm, chocolate!

chocolate

The beautiful historic houses built around the Vieux Bassin, and the port itself haven’t changed much over the years, but their purpose has. Instead of welcoming commercial ships and fishing boats, the harbor is now mainly filled with sailboats and other leisure boats. The horseshoe-shaped port is without a doubt the busiest part of Honfleur, with its many restaurants, art galleries, souvenir shops and local boutiques.

girl in honfleur

Honfleur is for lovers, artists and lonesome wanderers

  • Yes, it is the perfect place for a romantic date with your loved one. Enjoy the view of the Vieux Bassin while sipping on high quality wine and satisfying your taste buds with delicious French cuisine (perhaps from the gastronomic restaurant L’Ecailleur) – or do like the locals do; enjoy some fresh mussels in white wine and garlic sauce for lunch, accompanied by a glass of white wine (perhaps at Le Bistro du Port?)
  • And the target of inspiration for artists and photographers, in love with the old French charm, and the works of the famous impressionists!
  • And it’s a great place for solo travelers in need of peace and tranquility. Enjoy the beautiful view, buy something totally unique from one of the many artisan boutiques, visit the fantastic art museum of Eugène Boudin or the whimsical museum of musician and composer Erik Satie.

What are some eatable things you should take home from Honfleur?

Well, like I said before; you really shouldn’t miss out on all that delicious chocolate. You’re on a diet? No, you’re not. Not while in France, honey. Aux Blés d’Or is a chocolaterie worth your time and money (they don’t have a website, but they have a mouthwatering video on YouTube).

choco

Do you like strong alcohol? Then you might wanna visit one of the many wine/liquor stores, souvenir shops or small épiceries offering their finest local specialties. While you’re there, pick up a bottle of Calvados, which is an apple brandy – and a big specialty from the Normandy region. If Calvados is a little too strong for you, try Pommeau instead (apple brandy mixed with apple juice). If you prefer something lighter and more refreshing, try one of the locally produced ciders. French ciders are a lot less strong than the ones from the UK and a lot less sweet than the ones from Scandinavia!

calvados

The Normandy region is also known for using a lot of butter (in baking and in sauces) and cream. Try the Tarte Normande (local apple tarte) served with a little cream on the side. I visited the tea house L’Atelier and tried their version of this tasty tarte. Yum!

tea house

Speaking of dairy products. When in France, you just have to eat cheese. Lots of cheese. The most famous cheese of the region is the internationally known Camembert. Is it the best one? Now that’s a matter of personal taste. Have some Camembert and try the other ones, as well (Neufchâtel, Pont-L’Evêque  and Livarot). Compare, and find your favorite!

What else is there to do in Honfleur?

  • Visit the impressive Sainte Catherine Catholic Church. The church dates back to the 15th century, and is the country’s largest timber-built church with a separate bell tower.
  • Go on a boat trip! Take a guided tour off the shores of Honfleur and discover the Seine Estuary. For more information, click here.
  • Check out the farmer’s markets on Place Sainte Catherine (by the church). The traditional market takes place every Saturday morning, and every Wednesday there’s an eco-market (going green and eating clean is quite a big thing in France). And every first Sunday of the month, there’s a flea market (also on Place Sainte Catherine). Who knows, you might stumble upon some cool artwork or artisan jewelry?

church honfleur

3 things you probably didn’t know about Honfleur

  • Scandinavian Vikings lived there. This was before the Hundred Years War between France and England (where, at some point, Honfleur was taken and occupied by the English).
  • In Early October, there’s the Fête de la crevette (shrimp festival). Join the shrimp peeling competition and compete to win all your peeled shrimps.
  • Honfleur’s own painter Eugène Boudin introduced Claude Monet to his hometown and inspired him to start painting. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine the impressionist art history without Monet in it. He’s my favorite painter!

honfleur boats

My personal favorites for food and drinks in Honfleur

  • Bar: The beer bar Le Perroquet Vert, centrally located at the port of Honfleur. With a large selection of beers and cocktails, it’s the perfect spot for a night out (or for apéro before heading to your restaurant of choice). Want a cocktail suggestion? Try the Normand for that Calvados-feeling!
  • Restaurant: The modern gastronomic restaurant La Fleur de Sel was the first restaurant I went to in Honfleur. Not just for any occasion,  but for a romantic date night with my man. Amazing food, lovely staff – and everything looks as great as it tastes. Perfect for a soirée en amoureux.

ferris wheel

restaurant

church

water tower

streets


 

 

Spending time in London before catching your Eurostar: 7 things to do within walking distance of London St. Pancras!

Rushing from one train to another can be quite a stressful affair. And feeling stuck at the train station, hanging around waiting for the connecting train to arrive, is just as boring as watching paint try.

After one of my close friends decided to move to London (and I ended up moving to  Paris),  I’ve done my fair share of traveling between the two cities to visit my friend who lives in the city of Big Ben and Buckingham Palace.

While I found myself bored and restless, while waiting for the Eurostar (and my return to Paris)  I couldn’t help but wonder; what about those who arrive in London St. Pancras whose final destination is not London, but somewhere completely different? I’m sure they must hate the idea of spending two, three or even four hours just waiting for their connecting train?

I mean, I could barely even handle forty-five minutes of waiting, so imagine several hours? No, just no.

As the train station is centrally located, there’s plenty of things to do within walking distance of London St. Pancras. No need to buy that Oyster Card or figure out how to get from A to B by metro (or as they say in London; the tube).  Let your feet carry you to the pub (and hopefully out of it, too) , or to the shops, to the spa, to the museums – and if you happen to arrive around brunch-time – to the nearest place where you’ll find a nice traditional English Breakfast.

phonebooth

Here are 7 things to do within walking distance of London St. Pancras

  1. Go shopping. Isn’t that one of the reasons why a lot of tourists go to London in the first place? To do a bit of shopping? Well, I sure love to visit the small local bookshops and doing my share of window-shopping at the mall, whenever I have the opportunity to do so peacefully. Maybe even buy a new dress or two, if I have the extra money for it. The Brunswick Shopping Centre is only a 12 minute walk from London St. Pancras! bookshop
  2. Grab a cup of coffee (or tea). Coffee culture is obviously a big thing in London – just like the traditional cup of tea. Want to spend an hour just enjoying a nice cup of something warm (and a snack) while reading a good book or working on your laptop, in a coffeeshop? Visit Bloomsbury Coffee House (13 minute walk) or Notes Coffee Roasters & Wine Bar (3 minute walk)! coffee and books
  3. Or a full English Breakfast. England is not exactly famous for their cuisine, but they are famous for their breakfast (fry-up). As I don’t eat eggs and I prefer veggie sausauges over meat ones anyway, I decided to do a bit of research and head down to one of the traditional pubs that (according to online reviews) serve the best veggie fry-ups in the area of London St. Pancras. And that’s how I ended up in Doric Arch (12 minute walk). And yes, the breakfast was delicious. Beans, hash browns, mushrooms, tomatoes, toast, spinach and a veggie sausage. Yummy! english breakfast
  4. Or the traditional fish and chips! Another dish the country is famous for. Not exactly high gastronomy, but it sure is a guilty pleasure of mine. Fries with or without salt and vinegar, and a big, crispy fish fillet. I highly recommend the “chippy” I went to during my last trip to London; North Sea Fish Restaurant & Take Away. While I was waiting, the nice man who took my order offered me a cup of English Breakfast tea (on the house). When my lunch arrived, I sat down on a bench outside of the restaurant and started photographing my enormous fish (and chips) from different angles (to post it on Instagram, obviously). One of the costumers, an older man, “came to the rescue” and offered to take a picture of me with my food, as to him, it looked like I was a sad, struggling tourist. I didn’t wanna tell him that I didn’t want to be in the picture, but hey, it was a nice gesture, so why not. fish and chips
  5. Visit a museum. There’s actually quite a few museums to choose from within walking distance of London St. Pancras. The Foundling Museum (14 minute walk) explores the history of the Foundling Hospital, the UK’s first children’s charity and first public art gallery. The Charles Dickens Museum (18 minute walk) invites you to the Victorian family home of Charles Dickens, the author of famous stories like Oliver Twist. If you’d rather prefer to visit a natural history museum, visit the Grant Museum of Zoology (19 minute  walk). And again, something for those who love literature, maybe you’d like a guided tour in the British Library (7 minute walk)?
  6. Enjoy a luxury spa. At the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel which is conveniently located right next to the train station. Are you traveling with luggage? No problem! if it doesn’t already fit into the locker, the staff will find a place to store your luggage for you. My friend and I, spent around 3 hours just enjoying the pool and the jacuzzi (for the fee of £30 per person, for a full day). We did not book a massage, as they have to be scheduled in advance. So do all the other treatments offered in the spa. Want to save a little money, and still feel like a queen? You might be able to get a discounted deal on treatments at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel Spa, on websites like Treatwell. st pancras renaissance hotel
  7. Grab a pint! Feeling festive? I don’t blame you. Just don’t drink too much, or you’ll miss your connecting train! If you want your pint accompanied by home cooked traditional pub food (such as a yummy lamb stew), check out McGlynn’s (7 minute walk). Other traditional pubs worth checking out is The Skinners Arms (8 minute walk) and King Charles I (10 minute walk). Cheers! english pub

Any Harry Potter fans out there?

While at London St. Pancras – don’t forget to look for Platform 9 3/4 (for some reason I’ve never managed to locate it while at the station)!

bloomsbury coffee

london st pancras

chippy

bakery

Highlights of Strasbourg (and a guide to events you shouldn’t miss)

I’m sure you’ve already seen hundreds of pictures of those cute little European villages with colorful half-timbered houses on Instagram and in glossy travel magazines.

You know, the houses that look like they were taken straight out of a fairy tale.

Maybe you’ve already been to some of those villages. Or maybe you’d love to, but you worry you might get bored if you spend your vacation somewhere small and slightly remote. Maybe you’re more of a shopaholic and a partylover, and the city life is what it’s all about.

As much as you’d love to feel like Belle (or Gaston, if you’re a guy reading this) from Beauty and the Beast while strolling along the little streets of an idyllic village, you just can’t escape the fact that you need something more than that. Is it possible to have a bit of Disney-magic and the urban city-life all at once?

Of course it is!

In the Alsace region in northeastern France, you’ll find plenty of those charming little villages and small towns (examples; Colmar and Eguisheim) – and a city just as gorgeous.

The capital of the Alsace region, home of the European Parliament:

Welcome to Strasbourg.

tourism strasbourg

Back in July, I visited Strasbourg with my mother and one of her friends. Traveling with my mom can be a bit of a challenge sometimes, as she’s someone who could easily spend a full day shopping and an entire evening in a cozy wine bar.

Me, on the other hand, I prefer visiting historical sites and taking pictures of places, people and nature. During our stay in Strasbourg, we both had to make a few compromises, and things didn’t always go smooth as butter (which is often the case when traveling with others) but at the end of the day, everyone ended up being quite satisfied with the trip.

We arrived by train and stayed at the modern hotel Apart’hotel Strasbourg Wilson which is conveniently located close to the central train station, and has an indoor swimming pool. Breakfast was not included in the rate, but I didn’t mind paying the additional fee so I could enjoy the varied breakfast buffet. The rooms come with a fully equipped kitchen, which gives you the freedom to prepare your own breakfast in bed – in case you’d rather not spend that extra money, or you prefer having your breakfast in bed!

flammkuchen le kuhn

We filled our bellies with local specialties, such as the crispy and delicious flammkuchen/tarte flambée (photo above) at Le Kuhn, a veggie-version of the traditionally very meaty Baeckeoffe at Le Baeckeoffe , we stopped by a bakery for some kugelhopf and spent a couple of hours enjoying some refreshing Pinot Gris white wine and sandwiches at L’Épicerie. If Pinot Gris is too sweet for you, maybe a glass of dry Riesling is more up your alley?

pinot gris

I didn’t get enough time (or space in my belly) to taste the famous Alsatian choucroute, so I’ll have to save that for next time. Sausages, salted meats and sauerkraut isn’t exactly something you’d eat on a warm day in mid-July anyway, is it?

While my mother and her friend were busy checking out postcards, fridge magnets and other items from the souvenir shop, I took my time to photograph the beautiful cathedral. The Strasbourg Cathedral is the sixth tallest church in the world, and is considered to be among the finest examples of late Gothic architecture. The cathedral houses one of Strasbourg’s popular tourist attractions; an 18-meter Astronomical Clock!

strasbourg cathedral

We walked past street musicians and painters. Souvenir shops and jewelry stores. Small boutiques and well-known chains. Restaurants and bakeries.

street musician

Snacking on French pastries and enjoying the sunshine, slow and steady, we made our way to the picturesque neighborhood, the one that looks all your fairy tale dreams.

Hello, La Petite France!

la petite france

Curiosity brought us to a nice little artisan market. As tempted as we were to buy something, we managed to move on and continue exploring the neighborhood without any additional bags in our hands.

market

La Petite France contains the historical city center, which is surrounded by water, with the River Ill and various canals cutting right through it. The neighborhood was once home to fishermen, millers and tanners who worked in this part of town.

Visit La Petite France by foot – or embark on a nice little boat trip and let your feet relax while you enjoy the beautiful view.

alsace tourism

My trip to Strasbourg, and my first encounter with Alsace (I’ve since been to Colmar as well) left me wanting more. So much more. I know I’ll have to return to Strasbourg to see all the things I missed out on. And damn sure I’ll be there for at least some of the amazing events that take place in the city!

Ahem. Anyone wanna come with me to the Christmas market?

These are the events you shouldn’t miss in Strasbourg

  • 10.-24. November: Jazzdor Festival (Jazz Music Festival). Celebrate the 32nd edition of the Jazzdor Festival. Around 15 venues will be hosting the event, so check out the program, book your ticket and jazz it up in Strasbourg!
  • 24. November – 30. December: The famous Christmas Market. The oldest Christmas market in France, the Christkindelsmärik has been a tradition in Strasbourg since 1570. I don’t know about you, but I sure need my dose of Christmas markets to really get into the Christmas spirit!
  • 1.-4. February: Sacred Music Festival – The music festival devoted to celebration of cultural differences and different religious beliefs. Build friendships and break down barriers, through music!
  • 21. June: Music Day (Fête de la Musique). This is an event that takes place absolutely everywhere in France. In every city, every small town, every village. The streets of the city become your dance floor and DJ’s, bands and artists will entertain you all day and all night long. Fingers crossed for good weather!
  • 14. July: Bastille Day (La fête Nationale). The most important event in France is definitely one worth experiencing. The national day is nationally celebrated by watching the military parades, followed by the biggest highlight of the year; the spectacular fireworks display!

strasbourg street

strasbourg architecture

strasbourg buildings

kugelhopf(Photo above: this is a Kugelhopf)

artist

restaurant france

baeckeoffe(Photo above: This is a veggie-version of the Baeckeoffe)

AirBrush_20170928122515(Photo above: Blending in at L’Épicerie)

 

 

 

 

 

7 things to do in charming Delft (and a Dutch snack you just HAVE TO try)

Ah, how I love my road trip adventures.

They give you the freedom to make detours and visit amazing places you’d otherwise miss out on. Underrated, beautiful cities, small towns and villages. Places that are not overwhelmed by mass tourism. Places with an authentic feel to them. Based on personal experience, those are the places we end up falling in love with – and can’t wait to return to.

This is a guide to one of those places.

Back in May, while road tripping cross-country Netherlands, my boyfriend and I ended up in Delft, a beautiful city in the province of South Holland. And let me tell you why I regret not spending a night there – and why you should add the city  to your itinerary right now!

It’s no secret that the Netherlands is a country spoiled with idyllic scenery and quirky towns.

Delft is one of those places.

delft bicycle

In fact, the city looks like a mini Amsterdam. A little less bicycle traffic, none of that weed-smell, no red light district, no huge crowds of tourists. It’s like an Amsterdam for those who want the same atmosphere, the same aesthetic, but it’s just so much more quiet. Peaceful. Calm.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Amsterdam. But there’s just something about Delft…

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We were on our way from Kinderdijk (and the many windmills) to Hague (the seat of the Dutch parliament), and decided to make a detour and spend a couple of hours exploring Delft – a city I had heard of, but didn’t know much about. Well, besides its pottery production, that is!

Arriving in Delft, my boyfriend and I were blown away by how much the city resembled Amsterdam, and we immediately regretted not booking a night at one of the quaint hotels by the canals. I would have loved to have the opportunity to stay longer and enjoy the calmness, the beauty and everything Delft had to offer.

It ain’t a lot, but at least we got to spend half a day exploring the city!

The time was well spent strolling along the narrow streets and along the canals and photographing everything from every angle.  At one point, we were forced to seek refuge from the sudden rain showers (in a bar). A couple of ice-cold beers, accompanied by some (most likely) very unhealthy but oh-so-delicious snacks, made us forget all about the rain. By the time we left the bar, the sky had cleared up and everything was back to being nothing but perfect.

We finished our little Delft-adventure by checking out the local flea market and admiring all the arts and crafts displayed.

flea market delft netherlands

This was enough to convince me that Delft should totally be on everybody’s bucket list.

I didn’t get enough time to see everything, but perhaps you will.

In that case, may this list be enough to convince you?

Here are 7 things to do in Delft (and the snack you just have to try)

  1. Eat and drink Dutch. Visit one of the many bars on the Delft Market Square by Neuwe Kerk, or one of the bars along the canals. Order a refreshing pint of white or fruity Wieckse or, if you’re more of an IPA or Stout kinda person, a pint of Jopen . And don’t forget to order a tasty snack to go with your beer. Bitterballen is the snack you never realized you needed in your life, but you totally do. These deep fried little things have a hard, crispy crust and are soft and yummy on the inside. They’re filled with a delicious mixture of minced or chopped meat, beef broth, butter, parsley and seasoning. Dip them in mustard and enjoy! bitterballen
  2. Check out the Thursday farmer’s market. Every Thursday there’s a farmer’s market (between Neuwe Kerk and the City Hall). With around 150 stalls displayed, you will most certainly be able to find some delicious Dutch cheese, freshly baked bread, fish and meat, nuts, ecological fruits and vegetables – and much more. Do they sell Stroopwafel (thin waffles with caramel-like syrup filling)? Or Gouda cheese? Visit the market to find out (and buy some)!
  3. And the flower market (Thursdays and Saturdays). The flower market is located on the Brabantse Turfmarkt, which is a five minute walk from the Market Square (and the Farmer’s market). Thousands of beautiful, colorful flowers are displayed, obviously including the flower the country is known for; the tulip. A smaller version of the market is held every Saturday. Surprise someone you love with a gorgeous bouquet – and don’t forget to take pictures!
  4. And the flea market (also Thursdays and Saturdays)! Are you interested in antiques, art, pottery or used books? Every Thursday and Saturday, from April through October, an amazing flea market takes place in Delft. On Thursdays it’s located along the canal in the street called Hippolytusbuurt, and on Saturdays you’ll find a much bigger flea market (including a book market) along the Voldersgracht, Hippolytusbuurt and Wijnhaven canals. DSC_0942
  5. Visit the Porcelain Museum. Delft is mostly famous for its blue and white pottery, also known as Delftware, Delft Blue or Delft Pottery. To learn more about Delft’s tin-glazed pottery and its long history (dating back to the 16th century), visit the Royal Delft museum (and shop).
  6. See the works of Vermeer. One of the most well known names from the Baroque era, this is the painter who gave us the beautiful “Girl with a Pearl Earring”. Learn more about the artist and see more of his works at the Vermeer Centrum.
  7. Relax and just let life happen. In a city like Delft, it’s perfectly fine to just sit down at a cafe with a good book, or take a stroll along the canals and photograph the scenery. No need to rush from one place to another. No need to make any plans. Just enjoy yourself and let Delft seduce you!delft restaurants

How to get to Delft – by public transportation

delft map

From Amsterdam: Take the direct NS Intercity train, direction Vlissingen, from Amsterdam Centraal.

From Schipol Airport: Take the direct NS Intercity train, direction Dordrecht, from Schipol Airport train station.

From Rotterdam: Take the direct NS Intercity train, direction Duivendrecht, from Rotterdam Centraal.

To purchase train tickets, visit the NS website.

market square

dutch beerbicycles netherlands

delft south holland

nieuwe kerk

10 reasons why you’ll fall in love with Ghent (including a Boatel and how to get accidentally drunk)

Ever since I embarked on my very first trip to Belgium, two years ago, I’ve been in love with the country – and its beer. Don’t even get me started on the chocolate. And waffles.

And fries. Yes, the fries from Belgian frituurs/friteries/frietkot/fries’ shops are phenomenal!

To everyone who ever claimed we’re crazy for eating mayo with our fries over here in Europe, you better dip that fine piece of potato in some Belgian (or French) mayonnaise as soon as you set your foot in Belgium. Like I said; phenomenal.

I’ve been romanced in Bruges, charmed in Antwerp and entertained in Brussels. My latest Belgium-adventure, brought me to the beautiful city of Ghent. I knew it wouldn’t take much for this Flemish gem to seduce me (you know, being a sucker for fruit beers and Belgian chocolate and all).

Enough with the food talk (for now). There’s so much more to Belgium than its amazing food and drinks. Especially in Ghent. You’ll love Ghent.

Let me just tell you, I fell head over heels in love with the city – and so will you!

ghent

These are my 10 reasons why Ghent is a city you’ll easily fall in love with

  1. The Flemish architecture not only looks amazing in photos – but it makes me want to drop everything and move into one of those charming townhouses with a view over the Leie river. Imagine living in a nice little studio apartment in a tall narrow brick house, close to all the traditional pubs and eateries. You might end up becoming an alcoholic, but at least your house looks amazing on Instagram. ghent river
  2. The fairy tale castle, Gravensteen, is conveniently located in the city center and just waiting for you to photograph it, visit it, enjoy it and appreciate it – like the prince or princess you are! The castle originates from the Middle Ages and served as the residence of different Counts, throughout history. Today it’s a venue for special events, parties and cultural activities and it is by far the most important tourist attraction in Ghent. Many couples choose this fairy tale-esque castle as a unique setting for their big day. I don’t know about you, but I woud love to say “I do” in a gorgeous castle (darling, if you’re reading this, take notes) ! gravensteen
  3. The Boatel we stayed at, was a very pleasant surprise and it is without a doubt my number one place to stay when in Ghent. It’s cozy, clean and the breakfast is amazing. But the best part of the stay at The Boatel is the owner. A very helpful, chatty and extremely funny guy. He couldn’t resist poking fun at my boyfriend for being French, and as neighbor’s do, my Frenchman made a handful of jokes about Belgium right back at him. Ah, don’t you just love a friendly banter? All jokes aside, the Boatel-owner let my boyfriend borrow his bicycle to run an errand, and gave us plenty of good ideas for things to do and places to eat – and handed over plenty of useful brochures! boatel
  4. The events and festivities! We had no idea there’d be an awesome Food Truck Festival in Ghent during the weekend of our stay. Being someone who loves festivals AND food trucks, I was on cloud nine. A beer here, a snack there, and a whole bunch of snacks from yet another truck, and another one, and another one. Now that’s pure happiness, right there. Be sure to also check out the other fun festivities in Ghent, such as the Christmas Market and Winter Festivities, the Light Festival, Film Festival, Jazz Festival and so much morefood truck festival
  5. The street art adds a little extra coolness and urbanity to the city. As if the city wasn’t already cool! The Werrengarestraat is in fact a legal graffiti street. ghent graffiti
  6. Belgian beer is the greatest beer you’ll ever have. Whether you like light beers, white beers, lager, dark ales, sour ales, fruit beers, strong beers, you name it – Belgium has it. But beware; a lot of Belgian beers don’t have a strong taste of alcohol to them. But a lot of them are quite hardcore and will knock you out if you drink too much too fast, too soon. Trust me, I’ve been there, done that. Still, I keep getting accidentally drunk in Belgium every time I fall in love with a new beer. While in Ghent, we wanted to learn more about the city, its culture and to do a whole bunch of beer tasting, so we went on a guided tasting-tour with BeerWalk. It was fun, educational and we even got to keep our beer glasses after the tour! I did get accidentally drunk again, though. ghent festival
  7. Cuberdon – also known as Gentse neus (Ghent nose) is the most delicious candy ever. And you’ll only find it in Ghent! We bought maybe half a kilo of those yummy sweets from one of the street vendors, while wandering around town. The cuberdons are sweet, cone-shaped, raspberry-flavored and are made with gum arabic (natural gum made from hardened sap of the acacia tree), which gives it the gelatinous texture. cuberdons
  8. The food was mentioned before, and I have to mention it again. Do you want to satisfy your sweet tooth with some artisan gourmet chocolates or thick delicious waffles? Are you looking for a tasty late night snack and want to try some high quality Belgian fries, perfectly crispy on the outside and airy on the inside? Or do you wanna have a pint and a meal at a gastro pub and feed your belly with something more traditional like Carbonnade (Flemish beef and beer stew)? Before you ask, I ate all those things during my stay in Ghent. belgian chocolate
  9. The old-fashioned charm to the city. You’re surrounded by old, beautiful bridges, buildings and monuments. The historic St. Bavo’s Cathedral, Gravensteen castle, Saint Nicholas’ Church and the castle of Gerard the Devil – Ghent is a city full of history and treasures. belfry ghent
  10. Shopaholics love Ghent because the city has something for everyone. Chain stores, authentic boutiques, local up and coming designers and design stores – and last but not least, if you want to get your hands on some local produce or original souvenirs; there’s a market every day of the week, and six (!) markets every Sunday morning! ghent facades

And here are some fun facts you might wanna know about gorgeous Ghent…

  • Ghent is the capital of East Flanders in Belgium. The name of the city is spelled Gent in Flemish and Gand in French.
  • There’s a local brewery in Ghent – in case you wanna try the most local of local beer there is to try. Visit the Gentse Gruut brewery!
  • The inside of the Gravensteen castle houses a torture museum (not for sensitive viewers!)
  • The city promotes vegetarianism. Meat-free Thursday is promoted in all schools and public buildings, and the city is said to have the world’s largest number of vegetarian restaurants per capita. So if carbonnade and other meat-filled dishes ain’t your thing, check out veggie eateries – such as vegan buffet Komkommertijd or the colorful, trendy and Instagram-perfect Le Botaniste.

ghent belfryfood truck festival ghent

ghent architecture charmingboats ghent

leie riverghent city

gand villebateaux gand

gravensteen fortress

flowers and boats

waffles

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street art ghent

cuberdon vendor

festival ghent

ghent terrasses

beffroi gand

flemish

The botanical garden on the Cider Route in Normandy, France

Back in August, my parents traveled all the way from my native Norway to spend a week vacationing with me in France. More precisely in Normandy.

The beautiful region known for its apple cider (and calvados) production, cheese production (some smelly, others not so much)  and the quaint half-timbered houses that are ever so charming and fairy-tale-esque!

Being given a whole lot of responsibility and becoming my parents’ personal ambassador of France (you know, considering I live in the country and all) I went out of my way to make sure we wouldn’t spend a single second of the day being even remotely bored. While doing my Normandy-research, I found plenty of articles about some kind of a Cider Route.

“When in Lower Normandy, you have to check out the Cider Route (La Route du Cidre) in Pays d’Auge. It’s a 40 kilometers stretch of idyllic scenery, pretty little villages and home to several producers of the “AOC Pays d’Auge” cider”.

Alrighty, then. Off to the Cider Route, we go!

Was it worth exploring?

You bet your sweet ass, it was.

If you weren’t already in love with the French countryside before, you sure will be after a day or two spent exploring the scenic Cider Route. The rustic charm of the half timbered houses and old fashioned cafes, makes you feel like you’ve just stepped right into a fairy tale. The traditional farmer’s markets and the cider farms, now this is the icing on the cake. It sure completes the ambiance Normande!

But… Yes, there is a but.

As amazing as it all is, at one point you might wanna take a short break from all that cider shopping and village hopping and do something else, I’m certain.

Because things can get kind of repetitive. And you can get kind of broke.

Luckily, on the Cider Route itself, there is indeed another activity you shouldn’t look past.

cambremer

If you’re someone who enjoys photography (nature, macro, floral) , idyllic picnics, beautiful parks and romantic gardens – or you’re a painter/artist searching for inspiration; you’re in for a treat.

Creative souls and nature lovers alike; you are gonna love Les Jardins du Pays d’Auge (the gardens of Pays d’Auge)!

These charming botanical garden is open from May 1st until October 20th, which means you might want to hurry up if you wanna spend a day in this picturesque location before it’s closed for the season.

pays d'auge

Back in August, while exploring the Cider Route with my mother and stepfather, I took them to Jardins du Pays d’Auge – and, just as I expected, they loved every minute of it.

Well, except from maybe the thirty minutes of sudden rain showers. But hey, Mother Nature decided it was time to water the plants – and just happened to water the three of us at the same time!

According to the lady at the ticket counter, we would need about one hour and a half to quickly see everything Jardins du Pays d’Auge had to offer. The different themed gardens, such as the rosary, the devil’s garden (Jardin du Diable), the angel’s garden (Jardin des Anges), and the September garden (Jardins de septembre), were the perfect spots for photo-enthusiasts like myself – and my mother, to take lovely photos (of each other as well as the flowers and plants).

lavender

While strolling through the gardens, at one point you will end up wandering through a maze, which will then lead you to a cute little chapel. With music playing inside of it.

Apparently the gardens are available for wedding ceremonies, so I guess the chapel is used when celebrating the most romantic events of them all. The big day.

Would you set your future wedding to a botanical garden? I sure would (if my significant other was up for it)!

On site, there are some traditional half timbered houses open for guests to explore. These houses are fully equipped with different tools formerly used in production of food, hardware and clothing, back in the good, old days before modern day technology.

As my stepdad is an engineer and naturally curious about how everything is/used to be made, this was without a doubt his favorite part of the visit.

half timbered house

My mother, on the other hand, was ecstatic when we walked past a small stable with two donkeys in it.

Random, I know.

She went photo-crazy and took maybe thirty pictures of the poor animals, all from the exact same angle (as they were busy eating and couldn’t give a rats ass about my mom) and then she acted as stubborn as the donkeys themselves, when my stepdad tried to pull her away from them so that we could move on and continue our visit.

I’m not sure if it’s allowed to bring your own food into the gardens or not, but we did it anyway. Earlier that day, we bought a couple of sandwiches from a nice little bakery in the village of Cambremer (where Jardins du Pays d’Auge is located). We hid the goods in my stepdad’s backpack and saved them for the right occasion; picnic time in beautiful scenery!

If the weather (or the staff) is telling you your picnic ain’t gonna happen, and you happen to be so hungry you’d easily start chewing on flowers and leaves from the trees, fear not. Put the flowers down and wait until you’ve finished the tour around the gardens.

You see, on site – just in front of the entrance to the gardens – there is a lovely crêperie just waiting for your hungry belly to be fed with delicious galettes (savory pancakes) and crêpes (sweet pancakes).

normandy

Well, if you’re visiting the gardens between May and September, that is.

My parents and I, finished our sandwiches, finished the tour, and ended our visit. The rain showers had made the grass wet and slippery, which again had made our shoes wet and muddy. But it didn’t bother me, nor my parents. In fact, my stepdad was thrilled.

“Now, this has been a great day. Beautiful scenery. Tranquility. This beats all the villages that kind of look the same, anyway”.

His words, not mine.

Go to LesJardinsduPaysdAuge.com for more information and updates.

normandy gardens

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