One night in Pisa – is it enough?

One night in Pisa – is it enough to see everything and eat all that pasta?

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Back in May, while solo tripping through the south of France and the north of Spain, I booked a flight to Pisa as a grand finale of what would be my last solo trip as a twenty-something girl, before entering a new decade where society expects me to be a responsible adult (yeah, right).

Eating thousands and thousands of calories in one day and drinking glass after glass of red wine all by myself – all while drooling over sexy Italian men (even though I have a partner waiting for me at home) might not be something a responsible adult would do (yeah, right).

So I went to Italy, and I did exactly that.

My Ryanair flight landed twenty minutes ahead of schedule, which gave me even more time to explore, eat, relax, eat, and explore some more.

From the moment I got in the taxi, I was already starving and just couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into some firm, tasty pasta al dente from the best restaurant I’d be able to find in the neighborhood. Just thinking about it made my stomach growl like crazy.

I stayed at a surprisingly cheap 5 star hotel (Hotel Relais dell’Orologio) in the city center, only a five minute walk from the famous leaning tower. With its very mixed reviews -anything ranging from “it’s dated and dirty”  to “it’s romantic and clean” – I wasn’t sure whether to expect luxury or mediocrity? Cleanliness or dirt?

Well, to my pleasant surprise, it was clean and charming. Old fashioned indeed, but still kind of charming.

hotelroom

The receptionist was ditsy and gave me little to no information about the room and the facilities. Considering I’m quite ditsy myself, I forgot to ask for the WiFi code and check-out time, and ended up returning not just once – but twice – to the reception to ask different questions. Despite returning to the reception twice to have my questions answered, I did forget to ask about the breakfast. Which I’d already paid for.

As the receptionist hadn’t really given me any information about anything at all, she didn’t say anything about any breakfast buffet either. I did, however, find an in-room breakfast menu on my nightstand, so I filled in the form and hung it on the back of my door. I just assumed they didn’t have a buffet and I’d have to get the food delivered directly to the room.

Thinking about breakfast made me even more hungry and ready for lunch, and I simply just couldn’t wait any longer. Before seeing the leaning tower, before doing anything else, I had to feed my belly with a whole lot of carbs. As soon as I possibly could.

This was my first time in Italy. My first time eating real Italian pasta made in Italy with real Italian ingredients, using real Italian recipes, made by real Italians.

I asked my dear friend Mr. Google to help me find a hidden little restaurant with good reviews and not too much to choose from on the menu. Based on personal experience, the smaller the menu, the higher the quality.

And boy did I sure find a good spot for my first ever meal in Italy!

tagliolini

La Sosta dei Cavalieri served me a plate of delicious freshly made tagliolini with pioppini mushrooms accompanied by a glass of Chianti (Tuscan wine). I wanted to burst out a “Oh my God” while joyfully stuffing my face with the best pasta I had ever tasted in my life.

The couple sitting next to me kept staring at me as if I had arrived from another planet. Especially the girl. She gave me an evil stare, and I’m not quite sure why. Even more so when I opened my camera bag and started photographing my meal before eating it.

Once I’d emptied my plate and filled my stomach, all I wanted was a cup of coffee. With milk. Because I don’t like black coffee and I don’t like to add sugar.

Turns out, asking for a cappuccino in the afternoon in Italy, is just as bad as swearing in church. Maybe even worse. Everyone looked at me as if I was Satan in person, and the server told me he did not have cappuccino so I’d have to drink something else.

Fine, then. Espresso with milk and sugar would have to make do.

My full stomach and I, left the restaurant feeling happy and ready for adventures. Slightly tired and bloated, but as ready as someone who’s eaten way too much pasta, could possibly be.

The leaning tower was obviously my main target while in Pisa, but that didn’t stop me from checking out other things on my way.

pisa square

I stopped and took a moment to admire Piazza dei Cavalieri, a Renaissance square where the magnificent Palazzo della Carovana is located. This late 16th-century palace and university, houses fine art and sculptures. I didn’t enter the building, but I sure took a lot of photos of the beautiful facade.

pisa italy

Before going to Pisa, I didn’t know there was a botanical garden in the city. Turns out, there is. And it’s gorgeous.

pisa garden

Orto Botanico di Pisa was established in 1544, and is part of the legacy left behind by Cosimo I de’ Medici (the first Grand Duke of Tuscany). The garden is operated by the University of Pisa.

botanical garden

Lose yourself in the art and science of botany, take a stroll with or without your romantic interest, or come to the gardens to let your creativity unfold. I photographed the beautiful flowers, the facade of the Botanical School and the old institute building.

botanic school

I got lost trying to find the exit, and spent maybe twenty minutes wandering around in circles. You may wonder how that’s even possible. Believe me, so do I.

gardens

Once I found the exit, I made my way to the main reason for Pisa being on millions of bucket lists worldwide; the leaning tower.

leaning tower

The tower is not the only fascinating piece of architecture located on Piazza dei Miracoli (formerly known as Piazza del Duomo), as it’s situated next to the amazing Cattedrale di Pisa (cathedral), which again is right next to the Palazzo dell’Opera (palace).

tourist attractions

The translation of Piazza dei Miracoli may be “the square of miracles”, but before anything else it’s the square of tourist traps. Beware of pickpockets and people trying to aggressively sell you things you don’t want or sign petitions you don’t wanna sign!

pisa horse and carriage

And those restaurants that offer a special menu called “tourist menu”, which is basically just lasagna, Carbonara and Bolognese – maybe even a burger and a couple of pizzas – well, avoid them. Unless you wanna spend a lot of money on industrial food served with a large dose of bullshit.

I asked a random guy to take a picture of me in front of the leaning tower, as all my selfies were just bad and made it look like the tower was sticking out of my head or growing on top of it. The guy I asked had a professional camera and was busy photographing his friends, so I figured he’d do a better job than I did.

pisa fail

I’m not too sure about that, anymore.

Even if I hadn’t had time to become hungry again yet, I wanted more pasta. I needed it.

Ristoro Pecorino was the next restaurant of choice.

pastadish

The man who took my order, whom I believe is the owner of the restaurant, was one of the happiest people I’ve ever met. He was laughing, joking and had the biggest smile on his face at all times.

Once again, I felt like I’d just tasted the most amazing pasta in my entire life. Once again, my plate was empty and my stomach was full. Now more so than ever.

That night, I went to bed feeling as full as one would be after a Christmas meal or an eating contest. Just how I always say “I’m never drinking again” when I’m hungover, I wanted to say “I’m never eating again” as I crawled into bed, feeling like my stomach was about to explode.

The following morning was a bit of a drastic change (at first), and I already regretted thinking I’d never ever want to eat anything again ever.

My room service breakfast never arrived. I waited for one complete hour before going to the reception to ask if they offered any kind of breakfast buffet, and informed them about my room service situation. The receptionist apologized and pointed me in the direction of the breakfast buffet, which, did in fact exist.

The buffet ended up being the highlight of my stay at the hotel. The amount of things to choose from was overwhelming. I loved it. Placed on the table, was anything from different kinds of cured ham to pastries to fruits to different kinds of bread to all kinds of cheese. I tried each and every pastry, every sort of cheese, a lot of ham and some fruit – just to add a little bit of vitamins to the mix.

Once again, I said to myself, “I’m never eating again”.

Satisfied with everything I’d seen, done and eaten, I got in a taxi and waved goodbye to the city known for its leaning tower and the country known for its delicious food.

One night in Pisa was all it took for me to fall in love with Italy. So, where do I go next?

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A day in Terra Botanica – The theme park devoted to plant life (Angers, France)

Like many other women, I am obsessed with flowers. Looking at them, smelling them, photographing them, learning about them – I love it and I can’t get enough of it.

So it doesn’t exactly come as a shocker to those who know me, that I’ll always make sure to schedule in a visit to the local botanical garden, whenever I’m planning a trip to a new destination. It’s just one of those things I have to do. Because, enjoying the scent of beautiful flowers while strolling through a picturesque garden is something that gives me a feeling of tranquility. And it fills my Instagram with amazing colorful photos too!

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The day I scrolled through my news feed on Facebook and stumbled upon an article (including a video) on Terra Botanica – a botanical theme park in France – I knew I’d just made a great discovery. I had found my paradise.

Right there in Angers, a city in western France.

I thought to myself, a theme park AND botanical gardens in one? That’s just a whole other level of happiness right there – and it’s something for all generations to enjoy.

Me, I have moments where I behave older than your grandma, and moments where I behave like a little child, which makes it all just perfect.

Considering the fact that I already live in France, I knew I could easily go to Angers on a weekend trip – which made the temptation to go there, even bigger. Just a two and a half hour drive from Paris, and I’d be there.

I showed my boyfriend the article on Terra Botanica and played him the video. He wasn’t too excited about it, being a macho man and all. “A flower park? The rides don’t even look exciting. It’s just slow and boring”, were his exact words, when referring to the scenic boat ride and the journey in a nutshell (pedaling through the forest, past the tops of the trees). Boring my ass. It looked awesome.

My puppy eyes and multiple repetitions of “please, please, please” and “come on” – as if I was a little girl begging her parents to take her to Disneyland – paid off in the end.

We spent the day of arrival just visiting the city of Angers, which is a lovely city famous for its medieval castle with as many as 17 towers!

The following day, we left the hotel at an early hour and were all set and super stoked (well, at least I was) and couldn’t wait to spend a full day enjoying everything Terra Botanica had to offer, before returning home from our overnight getaway.

The sun was shining through the windy clouds, bees were buzzing around and flowers of every color imaginable were decorating every corner of the park. Due to the strong wind, the big yellow air balloon was sadly closed to visitors, but we still had lots of other interesting things to see and do!

terra botanica flowers

First thing up, was a 4D adventure. There are actually two different adventures, depending on what time of the day you get there. In the morning and until 2 pm, there’s a film where you’ll see things from a water droplets point of view and follow its journey from the sky to the heart of the plant. After 2 pm, there’s a film where you’re placed at the wheel of a Jeep and you’ll drive right into a dinosaur reserve. My boyfriend is a huge fan of dinosaurs and absolutely loved it. So did I. It reminded us of Jurassic Park, and who doesn’t love Jurassic Park?

walnut ride

Then we pedaled into the forests and enjoyed the view of the park from above while snapping a few photos, before changing the perspective and admiring the view from the relaxing boat ride. I asked my boyfriend if he still thought the park was boring, and he said no. Ah, see? I bloody told him so!

smiling

We fed our brains with interesting information about plants adaptations in different habitats (accompanied by hologram projections) before walking through different rooms to experience those different climate types and seeing the plants adapted to it.

After feeding our brains, we fed our bellies with a quick lunch from one of the restaurants in the park. My fish and chips was surprisingly as good as the fish and chips I’ve had in England – which means it’s freakin’ delicious (for a fast food meal). While my boyfriend was sitting there chewing on a mediocre hot dog, I could tell by the look on his face that he wanted to steal my fish. And then he asked me if I’d really be able to finish all of that, and offered to help out if not…

butterfly

We continued exploring the park and moved on to the butterfly greenhouse. I’ve already been to plenty of butterfly greenhouses/butterfly sanctuaries in my life, and I just can’t seem to get enough of them. Ever. I love how aesthetic butterflies are. The colors, the patterns and even the way they flutter their wings. From a hobbyist photographers point of view, they are magnificent creatures.

butterfly transformation

Before leaving the park, we went to see something kind of creepy, yet extremely fascinating; carnivorous plants. Yes, meat eating (insects, mainly) plants. Some of them have teeth and look quite intimidating, while others just look like some kind of a tube. Harmless. Apparently they eat mosquito’s, so if you’re someone who’s always targeted by those bloodsucking insects, you might wanna consider investing in a carnivorous plant.

carnivorous plants

We left the park feeling smarter, feeling happy and feeling exactly the way I’m sure the park was designed to make you feel.

What else should you know about Terra Botanica?

  • It is closed during winter (doesn’t quite come as a surprise, does it?)
  • There’s an Autumn festival in the park from the 28th to the 31st of October, and a Spring festival on April 1st and 2nd!
  • It is located in Angers, and is a 1 hour drive from Nantes and Rennes, 1 hour 20 minutes from Tours and 2 and a half hour drive from Paris.
  • It’s on the top 10 list of TripAdvisor’s Preferred in France Theme Parks.
  • Book tickets online and you’ll get a discount!

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How to stay in shape and avoid gaining weight while traveling

Don’t you ever wonder how some women manage to stay slim and look absolutely fabulous even after weeks, or even months, of traveling while not having access to their local gym and healthy home-cooked meals?

Don’t you ever wonder how these ladies manage to eat their way through each and every country while updating their social media feeds with photographic evidence of themselves stuffing their beautiful faces with delicious brunches, dinners and desserts?

It’s no secret that I travel a lot more often than the average person, and I know many people who travel way more than I do. And we all know the struggle of keeping up a healthy lifestyle while living in a suitcase and hopping from restaurant to restaurant, bar to bar, food truck to food truck.

When you look at me and my social media posts, you wouldn’t think I’m someone you should be taking advice from in terms of weight loss and healthy living. I have a few extra kilos, I love food so much I plan my days around what or where to eat for dinner, and I am not at all a fitness guru or anything like that.

The advice I give is based on my own personal experience and my own journey from reaching the point of feeling disgusted and depressed by what I saw in the mirror, to the point where I am now – which is maybe five kilos away from my ideal weight.

Before I became a frequent traveler and a travel blogger, I lived a life full of routines.

Four years ago, I had a full time job, I had my own apartment, I had a gym membership and I enjoyed cooking healthy food – especially vegetarian food (even if I never considered myself a vegetarian).

Going to the gym at 7 am was absolutely not a problem for me. Nor was spending hours in the kitchen cooking the perfect veggie patties and baking low-fat vegan brownies as “cheat meals” for the weekends. I have never looked as good as I did back then.

But I wasn’t happy with my 9-5 job and what I viewed as a boring lifestyle, so I moved to the US (where I landed a job in Disney World) and started solo traveling from state to state and visited different Caribbean islands with my friends – and continued traveling a lot more after returning to Europe almost three years ago.

Two years and a half ago, I moved to France and started traveling a lot inside of the country and to neighboring countries. By this time my healthy lifestyle had gone completely out of the window and I was left looking like a big fat blob.

I didn’t even realize the seriousness of it all, until I was in Norway, visiting my parents for the summer (two years ago).  There I was, sitting on my bedroom floor, trying on some of the clothes I’d left at their place before moving abroad four years ago. I was completely shocked when trying on all these beautiful blouses and dresses I once used to wear on a daily basis.

Nothing fit me anymore. Absolutely nothing.

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And that’s when I decided to make a lot of small changes in my life. 

While living a freelancer- and traveler’s lifestyle, it’s simply unrealistic to make any drastic changes. While some people manage to do that, most people won’t. Me included.

But anyone can change a few bad habits and add some new good ones to their lives and slowly burn off those extra kilos and feel like a better and healthier person – even while on vacation.

Thanks to those small changes I’ve made while traveling (and while being home, working on my laptop), I’ve lost most of the weight I gained – and I couldn’t be happier!

This is how I stay in shape and avoid gaining weight while traveling

  1. I take the stairs instead of the escalators/elevator.  I know how much it sucks to take the stairs when you’re carrying heavy luggage and feeling extremely tired after a long flight. But you might wanna give it a try, as it’s actually a great cardio exercise. You won’t need the gym when you can carry luggage or shopping bags and run up and down the stairs at the metro or train station instead. Also, when heading to the breakfast buffet at your hotel in the morning – take the stairs instead of the elevator. Staying on the first floor? No problem. You can still walk up and down the stairs just for the sake of burning calories. Consider it your little morning exercise before treating yourself to a nice breakfast!
  2. I stay hydrated with water instead of sugary soft drinks. Put a bottle of water in your handbag or small backpack before heading out to the beach, to the pool or to go sightseeing. We all know how important it is to stay hydrated, and water is so much better for you than any other soft drink. Keeping a bottle in your bag might just prevent you from heading to the nearest supermarket or vending machine and buying a can of soda whenever you’re thirsty!IMG_20170912_143342.jpg
  3. I put fruits and granola bars in my handbag/backpack. Again, this is all about being prepared for thirst and hunger to arrive at some point during the day. Whether you’re gonna explore a big city and visit a bunch of museums, or you’re just planning to hang out by the pool, a granola bar and fruits will be a better option than ordering french fries or churros from some random takeout place, just because you were hungry and needed a snack.
  4. I recently started wearing an activity tracker wristband. My boyfriend made fun of me when I first bought my FitBit, but now he wants one too. An activity tracker is not a miracle worker, but if you’re someone who loves to be challenged, you’ll have a great time using one. It will track your steps and movements, you can create your own calorie/food diary on the application – and the tracker will notify you and challenge you whenever it thinks you should be moving (not during the night, though). It might not work for everyone, but it works for me – and it’s a fun little gadget!
  5. I swim, hike, dance and ride a bicycle whenever the opportunity arises. Planning a trip to the beach to get your tan on? While you’re there, go for a long walk in the sand or jump into the water and go for a swim before getting comfortable on a lounge chair with a book in your hand. Going to the pool? Swim a few laps. Visiting a big city? Rent a bicycle for an hour or two. Staying at an all-inclusive resort? Check out the resort’s on-site activities. Yoga in the morning? Dance classes in the afternoon? Be there!IMG_20170420_220500
  6. I eat exactly whatever I want, but moderately. If you’ve ever been to a really fancy restaurant and enjoyed a three-course meal, you’ve probably noticed that the portions aren’t exactly big and you’ll be able to finish it all. You’re not left feeling like you needed to force yourself, and after you’ve finished eating you won’t feel like a balloon that’s about to explode. Think about that next time you go to an “all you can eat” buffet or enjoy a large pub meal or dinner at a family restaurant somewhere. If your main course is huge, you might wanna skip dessert. Or share one with someone else. And if you can’t even finish your main course, don’t. If you don’t want the leftovers to go to waste, ask for a to-go box and finish it later. It’s better to eat smaller portions of the things you really want to eat, than chewing on lettuce and celery every day and counting every single calorie of everything you eat. Trying local specialties is an important part of traveling. Don’t miss out!IMG_20161027_203337.jpg

 

Want me to publish more content related to weight loss, diet tips and activities to help you lose weight while traveling?

Drop me a comment below if you have any requests!

Day trip to the Gardens of Versailles? Check out The Fountains Shows and Musical Gardens – before it’s too late!

Since April 1st and until October 29th, there’s a special event taking place in the magnificent Gardens of Versailles – and you don’t want to miss out on the fun.

I was lucky to spend an entire Sunday in the Gardens of Versailles last month and let me tell you, although it was quite windy that day and we weren’t exactly blessed with a cloudless blue sky, the wind was not the only thing that had me blown away that day!

water

Enjoy the Musical Fountains Show

Les Grandes Eaux Musicales de Versailles (The Musical Fountains show of Versailles) is a celebration of the history and the beauty of the Gardens of Versailles – and a celebration of all the spectacular fountains located throughout the gardens.

Stepping on royal ground while classical music is played in the background and watching the fountains dance along to the melody – now that’s an experience that’ll have you feel like the queen or king you deserve to feel like. Even if only for a day.

fountains shows versailles

Study the map – or risk getting lost and missing out!

The first water display starts at 11 am. You will be handed a timetable and a map once you enter the gardens, and it’s up to you to keep track of what direction to take and which water display you’ll prioritize to see. Because, trust me, there’s a lot!

musical fountains

I was there with my boyfriend and his parents and we tried to see every single water display, but ended up getting kind of lost in the maze while walking from one part of the gardens to another. I don’t remember who started yelling at who, but somewhere along the line, someone got irritated because someone else were guiding them in the wrong direction, and then…we missed out on one of the preferred water displays as we didn’t make it to that specific fountain in time for the show. Bummer.

So, beware of that. I guess that’s the only negative thing I can say about French gardens and landscape with symmetrical and geometrical designs. They’re kind of like labyrinths! For someone who’s really good at getting lost everywhere, the Gardens of Versailles is just the perfect place to be if you don’t want people to find you. And you won’t even know where you are, yourself either.

And just so you know; the public toilets are also hidden in the maze somewhere.

There you go. Trust me. Study the map as well as you possibly can and there will be no issues!

versailles view

Let’s dig into a little bit of history

Ah, the famous Château de Versailles. Just seeing the palace itself – even from the outside – and enjoying the view of the spectacular gardens (especially the Orangerie) is already a magical experience on its own. No wonder the chateau and its beautiful gardens is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

orangerie

If you’re someone who’s intrigued by the history of French Royalty and want to see the most famous gardens of them all, I’ll assure you, you’ll have a fantastic time visiting the historical Gardens of Versailles.

The history of the gardens (as we know them today)  dates back to 1661, under the reign of Louis XIV (also known as the ‘Sun King’). André le Nôtre might just be one of the most famous gardeners in history, and the style “French formal gardens” has its noble reputation thanks to him. The style has been widely copied by other European courts and most gardens of this style is usually compared to the famous Gardens of Versailles. Starting his career as the gardener to the king’s uncle, André le Nôtre later gained fame and fortune for creating some of the most beautiful gardens of the 17th century. He was the mastermind behind the creation and renovation of the Gardens of Versailles – a project that took about 40 years, and thousands of workers, to finish!

versailles sculpture

How we ended up having breakfast in the Gardens of Versailles

That Sunday morning spent in Versailles, my boyfriend and I were kind of hungover and extremely tired from a late night out, the previous night. We got up later than planned and didn’t even have time to eat breakfast. To make the morning a little more pleasant, we went to our favorite bakery and bought croissants, pain au raisin (my favorite) and pain au chocolat and drove as fast as we legally could, en route to Versailles. And then we realized we’d forgotten to bring our prepaid tickets. Oops!

We got to Versailles in time for the first water display and everything went according to plan. Well, apart from getting lost in the maze. That was not a part of the plan.

The security guards didn’t care about my handbag being stuffed with a greasy paper bag with probably 10 different pastries inside of it. I’m actually not sure if it’s allowed to bring food and drinks to the gardens or not, but we did – and we enjoyed it.

Relaxing on a bench and enjoying the view of what might be one of the most beautiful gardens I know, made me forget all about being tired and slightly hungover. And eating those delicious pastries at the same time, yeah, that totally made everything a million times better.

fountains shows

Why YOU should go

Most people who plan a trip to Versailles, go there specifically to visit the palace – which is understandable. Château de Versailles is absolutely gorgeous, and an important part of French history.

But don’t turn down the opportunity to visit the gardens!

And while you’re there, take your time. Don’t rush.

Go for a romantic walk with your significant other. Feel the magic while watching the water displays with your children. Enjoy the music. The nature.

versailles gardens

The Gardens of Versailles is the perfect place to take beautiful photos from all different angles. Landscape photos, photos of the beautiful fountains and sculptures, photos of the dancing water, portraits of your partner, selfies with friends. And photos from above, capturing the symmetrical design that is the trademark of the French gardens.

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Tea tourism in London: Is the Aladdin-themed afternoon tea worth the hype?

Two months ago, a friend of mine who lives in London dropped me a message on Facebook with a link to a video I just had to watch – along with an “OMG” and “we have to do this!”.

I had already made plans to see her in London the following month and we had already made plans to do a whole bunch of stuff, including some kind of an afternoon tea event – although nothing was yet reserved. I knew she wouldn’t go “OMG” on me unless she’d discovered something beyond fantastic. It had to be borderline magical for her to use such an exaggerated statement. I mean, she’s French, and French people are not exactly known for going ga-ga over n’importe quoi.

Needless to say,  the video triggered my curiosity.

And her reaction was within reason. The video was an advertisement for an afternoon tea unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Gone were grandma’s tea sets, cream filled scones and dull rooms decorated in fifty shades of beige. Those were all replaced with purple, glittery walls and magic lamps as teapots. Welcome to Agrabah, I mean, Cutter & Squidge .

Welcome to a magical afternoon tea in Genie’s Cave!

There you are, sitting in a bakery in central London – yet, it doesn’t feel like that at all. Feels a lot more like having tea in a whole new world (see what I did there?) inside of the Disney universe.

“Should I make a reservation for us?”, my friend asked. Before I even finished watching the video I gave her a thumbs up. I needed this. I needed a little bit of magic in my life.

Fast forward to the day before our reservation in Genie’s Cave took place.

Pretty much as soon as I arrived in London, I was offered a cup of tea.

I was hungry, so I went to a fish and chips shop and was offered a cup of tea on the house while I was waiting for my fish to be cooked. Totally unexpected, very appreciated.

Now, if that ain’t British hospitality, I don’t know what is!

To me, this was a reminder of how tea is such an important part of British culture.

I wanted to honor this part of the culture. I wanted to experience tea in multiple ways. After all – don’t shoot me for saying this – but, I’ve always felt like afternoon tea events were just a full blown gimmick.

Yet, I wanted to experience it myself to see if it’s worth the money – and find out why people are so obsessed with it.

But I also wanted to drink tea where all the locals drink their tea (well, apart from in their homes) and I wanted to purchase high quality tea from the famous English brand Twinings and drink so much tea I’d be having tea running through my veins by the end of the week.

The Twinings Tea Shop and Museum  offers tea tastings so you’ll get to try before you buy and not end up with something that sounds like an amazing flavor but ends up being just one big disappointment in need of large quantities of sugar, honey or lemon in order to be consumed. Yes, Lipton cherry tea, I’m looking at you!

twinings

A staff member poured me some tea and told me I could ask her anything, anything at all about their product range. I tasted (and purchased) green tea with a hint of dark chocolate and coconut, and green tea with a hint of caramelized apple.

“Do you sell these outside of the UK – and does your online shop offer international shipping?”, were the questions I asked, to which she answered no. Talk about exclusivity!

twinings tea

Guess I have yet another reason to return to London then.

As if I hadn’t tasted enough tea that day, I was determined to find somewhere cozy to sit down and grab a cup of English breakfast tea to go with my lunch; a raspberry jam and cream filled scone.

I did find a nice little bakery called Fleet River Bakery where absolutely everything looked delicious. My eyes were begging me to order a big slice of delicious-looking chocolate cake, but I ordered a scone instead. Because, I didn’t come to England to eat something you can eat pretty much anywhere in the western world. No. I came for  a cup of tea. And a scone.

fleet river bakery

The tea was just as good as anywhere else, and the scone was amazing. I’m usually not a fan of anything cream filled, but the acidity of the raspberry mixed with the sweetness of the cream complimented the taste of the tender scone. Everything was just perfect.

And then came the day I’d been waiting for. The Aladdin-themed afternoon tea. 

When entering the Cutter & Squidge you’d have no idea there’d be some kind of magical Genie stuff going on in the basement. The charming modern bakery invites you in with its beautiful cake display and butterfly decor. Pastel macaroons, picture perfect cakes and anything Pinterest and Instagram-worthy.

A pink haired shop assistant guided us downstairs to Genie’s Cave. We walked into a room way smaller than expected, with sparkly purple walls – just like in the video. Jewels, gems, golden coins and other treasures were glued to the walls and to the floor. The pink haired girl showed us to our table, asked us if we wanted Mimosas or Bellinis or whatever fancy cocktail brunch-goers drink these days. I don’t quite remember, and we were both fine with  just fruit juice and tea.

dessert

As an appetizer we were offered yogurt with berries, cotton candy and meringue. Visually very pretty – and an oddly delicious combination of flavors and textures.

aladdin tea

Then came the dessert stand and the sandwich platter. My friend and I looked at each other with the same mixed reaction. It all looked so good, but… how on earth were we gonna be able to finish all of it?

sandwiches

Guess what? We didn’t. We couldn’t. Once we were done with all the savory pieces, we were full. And we still had all these cute little desserts to finish. Even a chocolate dessert with 24 carat gold inside of it. Yup. Gold.

cakes

I force-fed myself as I didn’t want any of the delicious goods to go to waste (and neither did my friend) and practically rolled out of the bakery and almost vomited on the street because I was so full after eating what felt like thousands of calories. I  felt like I was having a hangover from all the afternoon tea magic presented to me in Genie’s Cave.

aladdin lamp tea pots

 

Now you may ask, is the Aladdin-themed afternoon tea worth the hype?

I think it depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for. If you’re not much of a big eater and you just wanna have a nice little meal in typical British surroundings and don’t care much about the “magical” aspect, you’ll be better off going to a bakery or a cafe and ordering tea and pastries of whatever quantity you like.

However, if you’re a big fan of Disney and everything magical (unicorn frappuccino crowd, where you at?) and you want to escape from reality into a world of purple glitter and more cake than you could possibly eat – this is definitely for you.

tea time london

I have yet to try a traditional style afternoon tea, and I am interested in trying, just so I can compare it to the Aladdin-themed one.

…And roll out of yet another bakery, hotel, restaurant or whatever establishment I’ll end up going to.

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Where to find amazing travel themed wall decor and accessories

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If anyone ever asked me what I’m looking forward to the most, out of all the things I have planned for the rest of this year, I would not hesitate one second before giving my honest answer.

The answer is crystal clear. Moving away from here, starting over somewhere else – and getting to decorate a brand new, bigger and better apartment!

I have butterflies in my stomach, I have thousands – no, millions – of thoughts running through my head and I am beyond excited.

Next month I am leaving Paris, the French capital city, and I will be moving to Toulouse – a gorgeous city in the southwest. Close to Bordeaux and plenty of idyllic towns famous for their wineries and a more relaxed lifestyle.

I will be stacking up on expensive wines and celebrate like crazy!

Paris has been great fun, but I’m ready for new adventures.

And boy am I ready for that new apartment!

As I am currently living in my boyfriend’s apartment, I don’t have the freedom to decorate exactly the way I want and I don’t even have half of the space I need for my many books and magazines.

You see, I collect travel novels, travel guides, old issues of magazines like National Geographic and Lonely Planet – and I have this idea that one day I’m gonna cut out all my favorite photos from those magazines and pin them to my future motivation board on my office wall. My future office, that is.

My boyfriend is an avid collector, as well. He collects shot glasses and beer mugs from souvenir shops around the world. I’m too clumsy to trust myself with a collection of anything that fragile, and I make sure to stay far, far away from his collection items so I don’t break anything. So far so good.

Besides collecting souvenirs, photos and travel magazines, my man and I have pretty much the same idea of how we want to decorate our future apartment.

And it’s gonna look fan-freakin-tastic!

When two wanderlusters come together, it’s bound to result in a home filled with, well, anything travel related. Photos of skylines and beaches, world maps and travel themed pillow cases.

I will finally have my own office, and it will be decorated entirely the way I always imagined it.

With that motivation board placed above my desk, with photos from travel articles pinned to it.

And with a large world map as well as different city maps decorating the walls. As well as an enormous bookshelf where all my books can collect dust until I finally decide to pick them up and actually read them all.

To celebrate the upcoming move, I have received a custom black and white Toulouse city map from Modern Map Art – and I couldn’t be more pleased with how nice it looks!

I bought my own black frame in a local shop and framed the poster to give it an even more elegant look, and it’s currently decorating my living room here in Paris, as a reminder of our future plans and how amazing it will all be.

I know the poster will look even cooler than it already does, once we’ve found a perfect place to put it, in our new home in Toulouse!

Modern Map Art offers the perfect gifts for those who love to decorate their homes (or businesses) with city maps – and those in search of a one of a kind piece of artwork.

All you need to do is select your style, size, find whatever city (or even village) it is you’d like as decorative map art, add text, and voila – you’re done!

Now isn’t that the perfect gift for an expatriate missing their hometown? A couple wanting to celebrate a new chapter of their lives in a new city? A friend who just opened a cafe or a Bed & Breakfast and needs something cute to put on their walls?

Or just.. a gift from you to yourself, because you deserve something nice?

The posters can be used without a frame, or with a frame – depending on what kind of look you’re after.

In case wall art isn’t quite up your alley but you still like the idea of maps as decoration, Modern Map Art also offers iPhone cases and throw pillows.

Have fun decorating – I’m sure I will!

The posters are printed in Los Angeles, CA, USA and offer worldwide shipping (free shipping within the US) and it takes about 3-5 days from the time you place your order until it gets shipped. During busier seasons it might take longer.

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Losing friends because I’m a travel blogger: I’m not the problem, You are

We all know someone who knows someone who’s obsessed with traveling and shares tons of photos and updates on their social media accounts.

Whether they’re sweaty low-budget backpackers (solo or not) or wanderlusting fashionistas. Insta-famous influencers or sporty GoPro-vloggers. Trendy bloggers or old school novelists. Travelers who use modern day technology to document their journey from point A to point B to wherever it is their bucket list takes them. Those who Photoshop their photos so much it doesn’t even look like a real photo anymore – and those who keep it real and refuse to edit out any scaffolding, photobombing tourists or even pimples and mosquito bites.

I, too, am a wanderlusting blogger. Often sweaty, sometimes sort of fashionable-ish (mostly not). And just like all these digital nomads (and fabulous tourists) mentioned above, I also want to tell a story and inspire others to live life to the fullest.
Yes, I want to inspire people to take a leap of faith and just go. Explore the world. Book a plane ticket to your dream destination and never look back. Not just because traveling is fun and educational, but it will teach you how to be an independent individual.

And less of a picky eater.
And better yet, you will gain self-confidence. Lots of it. Trust me.

Heck, I’ll be happy even if I can inspire you to try a dish you never dared to try before. Or learn a few words in a different language. Or even just get you out of the house and take the bus or train to a different city and at least explore somewhere new even for just a day.

I love reading sunshine stories about people who went somewhere and did something because someone else inspired them to follow their dreams. I love when people I know (as well as people I don’t know) tell me they finally had the courage to embark on their first ever solo trip thanks to me. These people are the main reason I’m blogging and sharing updates from my travels on all my social media platforms.

But as we all know, being a blogger – no matter how big or small your blog is – comes with a risk. The risk of endless conversations with your parents who worry about you because you’re exposing yourself too much and living in a delusional bubble instead of taking that office desk job and marrying the nice guy you once introduced to your parents, then dumped because he was boring.

And then there’s the risk of losing friends. Old friends, new friends, best friends.

I’ve read tons of articles on this strange consequence of blogging.

Lonely travelers who lost all their friends due to jealousy and bitterness, and stories about friends growing apart and losing touch because of different schedules and lifestyles. The traveler who won’t settle down versus the friend back home who just “doesn’t get it” when you tell them how weird it feels to be back and how you don’t even know where home is anymore.

Most of my old friends are busy getting married, having babies, working their 9-5 jobs and spamming my news feed with “Game of Thrones”-spoilers and photos of their cats, dogs or children.

And here I am, not posting a single photo or status update on Facebook anymore – as I’m worried I’ll end up completely friendless if I do. You see, there’s a whole lot of people who’ve unfriended me and stopped talking to me after I started traveling a lot.

Yes, I might have shared perhaps a little too many photos from my adventures abroad. I’m sorry (not sorry), but I’m proud of myself and my accomplishments. Why wouldn’t I be?

Yes, I am guilty of previously bombarding my feed with photos, status updates and geotags every time I traveled to a new, exciting destination.

But, does that make me a bad friend? 

Looking at it from a different perspective, I guess what I viewed as memories worth sharing with the people I love, was viewed by them as annoying spam by an even more annoying person: me. The friend turned traveler. Solo traveler. And even worse; blogger. And to top it all off; Instagram Influencer. Yuck.
I guess they liked me better as a person before I became a “show-off”, and I completely understand how the word “influencer” will make some people want to vomit. It just sounds so…so… narcissistic. Right?

At one point, I did in fact wonder.

Had I crossed over to the dark side and become something hideous?

Was I, in fact, a narcissist? 

Are all travel bloggers narcissistic douche bags who just won’t stay grounded (literally and figuratively) or are we just misunderstood?

Are we influential storytellers or are we all just a bunch of annoying attention seekers?

Well, if a blogger is happy doing what they do and is causing no harm to anyone while doing it, it can’t be all that bad – can it?

Just how beauty is in the eye of the beholder and one person’s trash is another person’s treasure; bloggers are beautiful treasures to some – and complete trash to others. Digital nomads, traveling fashionistas and soul-searching writers are not self-centered for having a desire to share. They only do what makes them happy – and inspire others to do the same. That’s a good thing, no?

Before I was a blogger, I was a solo traveler with a half-tassed Tumblr blog and Instagram account, both full of photos with captions posted for myself to enjoy, like an online photo journal.

Turned out, people enjoyed reading my little captions and viewing my photos – so I decided to take it all to the next level and put my whole heart, soul and energy into creating enjoyable content for friends, family and complete strangers alike.

Before I was a solo traveler, I was…lost.

Before I expatriated to the US, and before I embarked on my first ever solo trip, I was stuck in a relationship I didn’t want to be in, and I had a 9-5 office desk job I couldn’t stand and I cried myself to sleep more often than not, without even knowing why I was sad. The feeling of emptiness and worthlessness was tearing me up inside and breaking me down.

My self-esteem was non-existent.

At work, I wasn’t good at what I did, and I never tried to make any effort to improve my skills. I just didn’t give a shit. I didn’t feel passionate about my work, my after-work activities, or anything else.
Like I said, I was lost. Before I became who I am today, I believed my life had no purpose and I had no reason to be living it. And strangely enough, this was all while still having a lot of friends. When I was that person. The sad downer with no drive, no passion, nothing.

Today, I am happy. I have a burning desire to create fun content, I have goals, hopes and dreams – and I have plenty of interesting stories to tell about places I’ve been, things I’ve seen and people I’ve met. I am an independent and confident woman. A healthier (but fatter) and better person than I was back then.

But most of my friends are long gone.

So, what happened?

Well. Let me just tell you what happened last time I saw an old friend who’d been ghosting me for a while after I found my happiness. We were at a coffeeshop and she was telling me about this trip she was planning, and told me she’d probably have to travel solo as most of her other friends were too busy to tag along. I volunteered to join her (I mean, I was her friend, wasn’t I?) and she immediately changed the subject.

And then she said; “Can I just ask you; how on earth did you get all those followers on Instagram? I mean, your photos aren’t even that good”.

The hours spent sipping coffee awkwardly with this old friend of mine were nothing but uncomfortable and I believe we’d both been better off if she’d just continued ghosting me and kept her thoughts to herself.

This girl was just one out of many people who for some reason decided version 2.0 of me was a shitty update with too much fancy stuff going on, compared to the previous version.

It’s hard to say goodbye, but sometimes you just have to let go.

If a person can’t be happy for you, they were never really a good friend in the first place.

Thanks to my curious nature and travel-addiction, I’ve met a lot of wonderful people who love to travel just as much as I do. I’ve met inspirational bloggers, vloggers and backpacking nomads from all over the world – and I’ve learned to really appreciate my friends back home.

The handful of friends who didn’t walk away when my life changed to the better. The ones who stayed to cheer me on, instead.

Those are the friends who will be enjoying room-service with me at a charming hotel in the south of France (for a complimentary stay) or get drunk with me at a beer festival in Germany (when sponsored).

Just saying.

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Sweet romance or steamy vacation fling? How to meet a Parisian (when you’re a tourist)

I’ve spammed this post with a bunch of photos I’ve taken in Paris (of touristic sights)  just to set the mood right and make you want to pack your suitcase and go. Just in case meeting a sexy Frenchie who’ll knock your socks off wasn’t motivation enough.

When most people think of Paris, they think about romance and romantic cliches.

I am sure you’ve seen billions of inspirational Paris-photos online. Photos of beautiful girls in beautiful dresses, enjoying fluffy croissants and pain au chocolat on the balcony of a pricey Airbnb or 5 star hotel,  while watching the sunrise in the morning (I’m looking at you, Instagram-influencers). Obviously they all have a great view of the Eiffel Tower.

Because, it ain’t worth it if it’s not a multi-climax photo with everything there is to love about Paris, in one single shot. Go big or go home, right?

I’m sure you’ve pinned and liked it all and imagined yourself being that girl. All while being swept off your feet by a hunky Parisian, well dressed, well groomed and with the sexiest accent imaginable. He looks like he just walked straight out of a perfume-ad and he smells like a mix of cologne (maybe Yves Saint Laurent or Dior) and cigarettes.

He’ll take you to all his favorite bars and restaurants in the city, introduce you to the best wines you’ll ever drink, and desserts so delicious you’ll never want to eat anything else again in your life.  He’ll tell you you’re trop belle and proudly introduce you to his friends. Champagne high and with a great sugar rush from all the pastel macaroons you’ve eaten,  you feel like you’re on cloud nine and you wish you could just stay in this bubble forever. Just you and this mystery man in Paris.

That’s the cliche that a lot of hopeless romantics believe in, and that’s why a lot of women end up coming to Paris in the first place. To find that little piece of magic. The holiday romance – or vacation fling. Whatever you wanna call it.

This image of Paris is the city as it’s portrayed by Hollywood and novelists.

ferris wheel

The real Paris is different. Very different. Yes, the macaroons, the champagne, the wine, the 5 star hotels, the Eiffel Tower, it’s all there. It’s all real. And French. But all that glitz and glam is not part of a Frenchman’s every day life. Unless you’re aiming for the aristocrats, of course. But that’s a whole different planet than the one the average Jane such as myself (and probably you) live on.

I live in a Paris where a Friday night out means putting on your best jeans and checking the weather forecast to see if you’ll need to bring your umbrella or not. Where you can’t make up your mind whether to go to a Japanese, Korean, French or Italian restaurant. Where snacking on sliced cured sausage while drinking pint after pint of Belgian beer is considered a cultural thing (apéro) to do before dinner. Where your favorite neighborhoods are those where most buildings are covered in street art and beer bars and burger joints are located side by side.

That’s my Paris. And that, my friend, is probably also the Paris of your future vacation fling. I guess this means the way to approach and be approached by the average Parisian man might not be quite as glamorous as you expected. But that doesn’t mean he won’t add a little magic to your vacation.

opera garnier

Trust me, I’m speaking from my own personal experience. The guy will give you fireworks and the whole shebang (metaphorically speaking, of course) and might steal your heart and make you feel bad about continuing your Euro-trip instead of staying with him a little longer.

Like I said, I have experienced this firsthand. I’ve also observed friends who came to Paris looking for long term love or a short term romance. And, yes, I also happen to know a lot of French men who’d love to meet a mysterious lady who’s passing through Paris before heading off to their next adventure. Some of those guys might even ask to join you on your adventures!

Right. The travelers and the Parisians want to meet each other. So what seems to be the problem?

Well.

Yes, there are plenty of locals interested in meeting a charming foreigner and showing her all their favorite spots in Paris.Yes, there are lots of female travelers interested in meeting a handsome Parisian. But the problem might just be that you’re looking in the wrong place and approaching the wrong type of guys.

You don’t wanna end up with the local version of your hometown asshole?

sacre coeur

To make it easier for you to navigate, I’ve listed a bunch of DO’s and DON’Ts, tips and advice. Happy hunting!

How to find him

DATING APPS 

  • Don’t use Tinder, if you’re looking for something more than just a steamy night in bed with a Parisian. Tinder has a reputation in France for being a sex-app, not a dating app – and even if you might meet someone nice and genuine on there, there’s a big chance you’ll just be wasting your time.
  • DO try the french app Meetic instead (if you manage to navigate through it in French). If your French language skills are solid enough (and you’re in town long enough to schedule in an evening dedicated to something non-touristic), you might wanna look into signing up for a cooking class or any of the other events arranged by Meetic. That way, you’ll be able to meet someone in a more neutral environment – and even if you don’t, you’ve learned a new skill or a new recipe.
  • MAYBE try the app MeetMe. This app is either a dream or a disaster, depending on who you meet. I was lucky and met the love of my life on this strange app, but you kind of have to sort through a sea of creepers before you find someone decent to talk to.

INTERNATIONAL MEET-UPS and LANGUAGE EXCHANGE EVENTS

  • Don’t use the language exchange groups on Facebook for romantic purposes. A lot of the users are already in relationships and are only looking for someone who can actually help them improve their English language skills. There ARE a lot of single guys on there too, and from what I’ve been told (by friends who met up with some of them) while some might be genuinely nice, others were rather creepy. If you decide to meet someone off those groups, make sure you meet them in a safe, public place. Maybe in a park, such as Jardin du Luxembourg, or in a coffee shop?
  • DO attend language exchange events where you get to meet lots of different people – locals as well as other foreigners. With Franglish the language exchange is done speed dating style, with 14 minute one-to-one conversations with all the attendees (of whatever age and gender). Who knows, you might end up having a 14 minute conversation with Mr. Right (now).
  • DO attend international meet-ups! With MeetUp and InterNations you can sign up for guided tours, cinema/theater/museum events, brunches, lunches, dinners, hikes, drinks – anything, really. In a natural environment like this it’s easy to meet someone, although there’s a bigger chance of meeting someone not French than someone who IS French (with the exception of the bar/club events).

MEET SOMEONE THROUGH MUTUAL FRIENDS

This is by far the best way to meet someone, but it’s also the trickiest way. Do you already have a friend who lives in Paris? Or even a friend of a friend? Or a friend of a friend of a friend?

Once you’ve made your way into a circle of friends it will be easier for you to meet someone, have a nice conversation with that person – and hopefully arrange to meet again the next day.

  • DO chit-chat about your life, your culture, food, drinks, the weather, your job – and feel free to complain about things. In France, complaining is not a turn-off. Quite the contrary. It’s cultural to complain about your work, the weather and everything else you feel deserves an eye roll, a sigh and the negative ooh la la.
  • Don’t ask him about his religious beliefs or political views. A lot of French people are atheist and not at all interested in talking about religion. And politics? Just leave it. Unless you  feel like ranting – or you know a really good joke about one of the current or former politicians!

notre dame

How to get him interested

Keep it simple: In Paris, less is definitely more. Don’t go too heavy on the makeup, don’t show off any more skin than what you’re comfortable with – and just be yourself. A beautiful smile goes a lot further than having your boobs out on display. Any day.

Keep it funny: In France there’s a saying that goes; “Une femme qui rit a moitié dans ton lit” (a woman who laughs is halfway in your bed), which means, humor is the key to a woman’s heart (or bed). This does not only apply to women, though. French men love a woman who can make them laugh. A confident, happy woman with a great sense of humor. Now, that’s a keeper!

Keep it mysterious: As charming as he may be, don’t take him back to your hostel dorm to “seal the deal” right after you just met. And even though the bedroom in his tiny Parisian apartment sounds a lot more comfortable than your hostel bunk bed, don’t rush things. Just don’t. Leave him wanting more. Leave him thinking about you all night, waiting, wanting, wishing, hoping. He may be frustrated, but he’ll appreciate it so much more once it happens. And so will you.

eiffel tower angle

Remember the French etiquette

DO greet him (and his friends) with kisses on the cheeks (well, more like air-kisses, really) and say bonjour or salut.

Don’t shake his hand. It’s weird. Unless he just interviewed you for a job, that is.

Parlez-vous Francais?

You’re a tourist. Nobody expects you to speak French. But then again, speaking another language opens up a whole new world and allows you to be introduced to people you wouldn’t otherwise be able to communicate with.

An example; if someone asks you “As-tu un copain?” (do you have a boyfriend), you might wanna say “non, je suis célibataire” (no, I’m single).

Download Babbel and get on to it.

Motivate yourself and think about that perfume ad model and how great it would be to eat croissants on the balcony of a 5 star hotel while enjoying the view of the Eiffel Tower, with him.

paris eiffel tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drunken shenanigans abroad: Women share their stories

Ah, alcohol. Your best friend on a Saturday night and your worst enemy on a Sunday morning. Maybe even more often while traveling, as you might find yourself losing track of time and don’t even know which day it is anymore. Any day could be Saturday. Or Sunday. And why would anyone blame you, as long as you’re not flashing your birthday suit and puking your guts out on public property?

And even then, who am I to judge?

You know what they say; you’re only young once (although that saying and the acronym kind of makes me cringe).

A big part of traveling is socializing with locals and fellow travelers, isn’t it?

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I’ve made a whole lot of friends (on Facebook) while drunk. Heck, I’ve even become best friends with people while drunk. I swear I’ve even felt like some of them were my soul mates. Sister from another mister. Brother from another mother. You know what I mean. Pals for life. Or at least until the next day, where I completely forgot everything about them and had no idea what these strangers were doing on my friends’ list on Facebook.

I remember that one time while waiting in line for the bathroom at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, when I became best friends with a fierce drag queen. I honestly don’t remember what we talked about, except from me telling her I loved her cheekbones and her telling me she loved my dress. And somehow we became friends on Facebook.

Then there was the guy who squeezed my belly that one time when I went to a nightclub in Paris, France. I told him I really loved pizza, and that’s why I was fat. He told me I was still beautiful, so it didn’t matter. Weird. That guy did not end up on my friends’ list.

Then there was that one time when I drunk-dialed my mom while I was in a bar in Oxford, England. The DJ played an 80’s song that reminded me of her, so I phoned her up and cried on the phone. It resulted in my mom being worried sick, and me being an emotional wreck the whole evening, then not remembering a thing the next day and wondering why my mom kept asking me if I was okay.

Then there was that one time in Krakow, Poland, when I ended up making out with a guy who was my friend and only my friend and we were never supposed to be more than just friends. He was sad because all the Polish girls were more into one of our other travel companions (who normally had no luck with women at home) and I was, well, available and kind of into him at the time. The guy looked like a spitting image of Stifler from American Pie – and his behavior was quite the same as well. This is not  a compliment, so please don’t question my taste. Still, the guy made me laugh. And his dance moves were the most hilarious I’d ever seen. He tried to look as sensual as a sizzling Latino, but his dance moves reminded me more of some strange kind of disco-dancing. After leaving the club, Stifler and I started kissing in the hotel lobby, then in the elevator and the corridor – before I came to my senses and told him good night.

Speaking of dudes. Now, this didn’t actually happen abroad. It happened in my hometown, but the person involved was a tourist – so I guess it sort of counts. I went to a nightclub in Stavanger, Norway with a friend and we ended up dancing with some Swedish guys. One of them ended up buying me lots of drinks, and I kept on drinking them. We were dancing and having a great time. And then something happened that ruined the entire atmosphere. He farted. At first I wasn’t sure if it was him or someone else on the dance floor who passed gas, but as we went to the bar to buy drinks (and escape from the smell) he farted again. Was he nervous? Had he eaten a bad burrito that day? Who knows.

mango cocktail

I asked a few ladies (fellow travel bloggers) to share their own experiences from some of their most interesting and memorable drunken nights abroad. These are their stories (and photos).

Meeting the love of my life – drunk in Thailand

After checking into Hug Hostel in Chiang Mai, I threw my bag on the top bunk and sat down. The English guy on the lower bunk, called Ed, started chatting away to me. He asked me if I wanted to go out to a bar that night with a few other people. Of course, I said yes.

Later on, 10 of us sat in the hostel playing drinking games and then headed out to Zoe in Yellow. Although it was a bar, it felt more like a club. The DJ was blasting dubstep and everyone was chugging buckets. To my disgust, it closed at 12 am. But I was still buzzing.    I wanted to keep going!

I asked around if anyone wanted to get drinks somewhere else. Ed was the only one that said yes. So we walked down to the 7/11 to get more beer, but they couldn’t serve it after 11 pm. We turned to walk back to the hostel, when I spotted a random hotel. I asked the manager inside if he had any beer. He smiled and pulled out two cold ones from behind his wooden desk. Ed and I sat in reception drinking our beer when I noticed a bellhop cart. Somehow, we ended up pushing each other around the hotel on this cart. And even weirder, the manager just stood laughing at us!

Ed and I went up a floor and climbed onto the roof. We talked for hours. And made out. We ended up spending a week together in Chiang Mai, then another 6 days in Koh Samui and Koh Tao in Southern Thailand. When you’re travelling, you never know if you’ll see someone again.

Admittedly, I had tears in my eyes when I was driving away from him. But when I got back home to Northern Ireland, Ed flew from England to see me. We kept flying back and forth. I spent Christmas with his family, and he spent New Years at mine. A year later, we’re in the best relationship we’ve both ever had. We’ve been to 6 countries together. In November, we’re going to Australia for one year, and who knows after that. It’s strange how one drunken night can have a massive effect on your life. I certainly never thought I’d meet the love of my life!

by Chloe @ journeywithchloe

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Drunk and lost in Mallorca

Okay, let me start this off with a word of advice: DON’T get drunk and wander the streets of a foreign country. Luckily nothing bad happened to me, but I was fortunate!

When I was living in Madrid I took a solo trip around Europe. My final destination was Bergen, Norway. As most of you probably know, Norway is super expensive, and so are the flights (for Europe standards). All of the direct flights to Madrid were over 300 euros, which is crazy expensive for a European flight. Hell, I had just gone to Rome for a measly 40 euros!

The cheapest ticket I could find was to the island of Mallorca, for around 76 euros. I booked a ticket from Bergen to Palma de Mallorca, and planned on doing a stopover there for a couple of nights before returning to Madrid. Flights from Mallorca to Madrid are like, 15 euros, so I thought I might as well take a mini-vaycay before heading back to the city!

Ugh. Big mistake.

My flight arrived to Mallorca at 7:50 pm. I got a taxi from the airport and arrived to my hotel around 8:15 pm, only to find the reception to be locked and empty.

It turns out the hotel closed at 8 pm, and any travelers arriving after would be left without a room. And nothing could be done about it. A hotel closing at 8 pm is complete asinine to me, but I digress. My phone battery was dead, so I went to the closest bar to get WiFi on my laptop and book another hotel.

I should have just gone to Starbucks…

Stressed and upset Kerry decided to get a few drinks to calm her nerves. Stressed and upset Kerry had a little more to drink than she originally planned. Kerry got drunk. Like, really drunk.

Fast forward an hour or two, and I was obliterated. They take alcohol seriously in Mallorca, and one drink may be equal to two or tree drinks with the amount of liquor they put in. I’m tiny, and pretty much one of the biggest light weights ever. So by the time I left the bar to go to the new hotel, I was druuuunk.

Now, this is the time for you all to learn from my mistakes.

I had Google Maps out in one hand, rolling luggage in my other, a huge backpack on, whilst wandering aimlessly in the streets of Mallorca alone at night. I was at the point where I didn’t realize how drunk I was, and thought that I was completely in control over everything.

Probably half an hour went by and I still had not arrived to my hotel. I started walking up to people, stating that I was drunk, and asking them to call  a taxi for me. Finally, someone helped me out and directed me to where all the cabs were. Luckily, I had the name of the hotel written down so I could tell the driver where I was going.

We got to the hotel, I got out of the cab, walked up the steps, and stated that I had  a reservation. Oops, I accidentally mistook the ice cream stand that was next to the hotel for the reception!

The worker kindly pointed me to the direction of the hotel, and I finally checked in.

Needless to say, I ended up spending the next day of my “mini-vaycay” in the hotel room, terribly sick. Definitely one of those “I’m never drinking again” moments. Honestly, I am just happy that nothing horrible happened to me while I was roaming around alone and intoxicated. This is absolutely the dumbest mistake I’ve made traveling, and I would never advise anyone to make the same mistake.

Remember folks, Google Maps doesn’t work if you’re obliterated.

by Kerry @ thepetitewanderer

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The marriage counselor – drunk in the Maldives

Each time we remember our vacation to the Maldives, the first thing that comes to our minds is one particular embarrassing evening that we spent after getting drunk. While writing this down, our faces have already turned a shade of pink thinking of that crazy night and our most hilarious drunk moment till date.

We were holidaying at one of the idyllic islands of the Maldives and were staying in a gorgeous over water villa. The villa had a lovely sit out area from which a ladder led downwards, straight into the sea.

On one of the days, after watching a glorious sunset, we decided to enjoy the moment and share a couple of drinks. Two hours into the evening, we were on stage 2 of drinking, the most dangerous stage in our opinion (in our funny classification scheme, stage 1 is tipsy, stage 2 is can-drink-more-but-can’t-think-or-walk-straight and the final one, stage 3 is I-need-to-puke).

Typically, after stage 1, you are as good as good as you were before drinking. After stage 3, you would crash in bed and fall asleep. It is when you’re stuck at stage 2, that all those awkward and embarrassing memorable experiences take place.

So at stage 2, we headed to chit chat over a few more beers in the sit-out area of our over-water villa. While outside, we could hear a couple fighting in the neighboring villa. On purposely trying to overhear their conversation, we understood that they were on their honeymoon and were arguing over silly things. From their language and accent we figured that they were from the same place as us.

Rewinding three months before our Maldives trip, we were on our honeymoon in Greece and were fighting in a very similar fashion on yet other petty issues in our villa balcony.

Suddenly overcome by a sense of déja vu, Pushkaraj asked me to hold his beer bottle and without prior warning, took the ladder down, jumped into the sea and headed to swim over to the couple!

While I was still trying to fathom what was happening, Pushkaraj was in the middle of the sea, swimming with all his clothes intact, on a rescue mission, considering himself the savior of the night. In my alarmed and confused state, I crawled over the edge to see what was going on exactly. I was ready for him to be slapped and insulted for breaching someone’s privacy to this extent. Turns out, he reached their villa, climbed the ladder, walked up to them and befriended the shocked and surprised souls! He introduced himself and requested them not to fight as it’s not worth spoiling your honeymoon for! In his drunken state, he managed to give them half an hour of marital advice and how the first few months of marriage can be difficult and not as ideal and glorified as the world seems to portray. All this, when we ourselves were barely married for four months that time!

While he was chit-chatting with them, I don’t remember when I fell asleep in our villa and woke up the next morning to meet our new friends. As embarrassed as I was, I went to apologize to the amiable couple who in turn thanked Pushkaraj for helping to sort out the misunderstanding between them! For the next three days, the four of us did most of our activities together and laughed over that one crazy night.

We’re still friends by the way. I guess, all’s well that ends well!

by Meghna @ TrailingAbroad (with hubby Pushkaraj)

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The Cocktail Guru from S2 Beach Shack – drunk in Goa, India

Meet Ram -The cocktail guru of Goa, India. During our stay in Goa we stayed at a beach shack which came with a very unique bartender called Ram. Whenever we saw him we weren’t sure if we should run, hide or just drink. Every time he saw us on the beach we had to have one of his “famous cocktails” which made us swing well into most nights! I don’t even think he remembered what he put in them half the time but they came in all forms, tastes and sizes… it was such fun!

The one night it went one step further, he made a giant stiff cocktail with a giant hollow watermelon on top. Ram said that if we finished it one of us had to wear the top garnish as a hat. Keeping up with tradition, I was appointed the duty by my friends and a hour later I had this water melon cucumber hat on my head. We had so many laughs and left with good memories.

by Liza and Lisa @ Souldrifters

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What is YOUR greatest memory from a drunken night out in a foreign country?

Share your story in the comment section below.

 

 

 

6 Reasons why you (with or without kids) will enjoy visiting Muiderslot Medieval Castle near Amsterdam

About 15 kilometers southeast of Amsterdam, located along the Vecht river, that’s where you’ll find the beautiful Muiderslot, or Muiden Castle – the best kept medieval castle of Holland.

My man and I made sure to visit this magnificent historical site while road tripping from one Dutch city to another, with a Lonely Planet guidebook in my already very full handbag and my beloved camera around my neck, recharged and ready for action.

We had just left Amsterdam and was on our way to go to Haarlem, but made a little detour to visit what is known to be one of the most picturesque castles in the Netherlands. We obviously didn’t wanna miss out on something as spectacular as this!

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While my man was complaining about the weather not being that great that day (gray and cloudy) my only complaint was regarding my questionable choice of attire. I was wearing a miniskirt – the most inappropriate thing to wear while climbing the steep stairs all the way to the top of each tower. I’m sure my boyfriend enjoyed his view up my skirt, but I’m not sure other people enjoyed it quite as much. And there were lots of kids there. What an eyesore that must have been for those poor children!

We learned a lot of random facts about the castle and the location of it, while wandering around from room to room, tower to tower. Mostly about Count Floris V, the guy who built the castle back in 1280. The count was later kidnapped by Gerard Van Velsen and his comrades, and was later imprisoned in his own castle. When he tried to make his great escape, he was killed by Gerard Van Velsen who stabbed him 20 times. Brutal. Gerard Van Velsen’s wife was raped by Floris V, and this was allegedly the reason for the conflict between the two nobles.

Understandable, if you ask me.

After visiting the castle, we went to see the falconer. We hadn’t actually booked an appointment or anything – which is what you’re supposed to do. We just stumbled upon a bunch of school kids on a field trip and decided to hang around and photograph the birds of prey. I was ecstatic as I absolutely love owls and I’ve never been as close to an owl as I was there. I’ve never felt as happy and jealous at the same time. While the kids got to touch the owl, I couldn’t, as I was just an intruder and not part of the group. Or a child, for that matter.

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At least I’m left with some pretty cool photos. I guess that beats touching an owl once.

Those who know me well, know how much I love medieval architecture and history. The castles from the Medieval Period remind me of those illustrated in fairy tales and Disney movies. From a (sort of) young couple’s point of view, visiting historical sites like the Muiderslot is a great occasion to take photos, educate ourselves – and sneak around and hide behind a wall, or in one of the castle’s towers and kiss our partner. Yes, I find castles romantic. Don’t you?

Speaking of romance, did you know you can book this castle for your wedding?

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Besides photography and romance, let me give you 6 more reasons why you should take a day trip to Muiderslot from Amsterdam or nearby!

  1. You can visit Muiderslot by boat from Amsterdam with the Amsterdam Tourist Ferry! Now doesn’t that sound like a fun way to start your day trip? I sure think so! The ferry operates a daily service except from Mondays, and departs from the marina of Amsterdam IJburg, which is a 15 minute tram ride (nr 26) from Amsterdam Central Station. The ferry has an inside and outside area, toilets, heating and a bar.
  2. Muiderslot is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I don’t know about you, but in my opinion, if something is officially recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization it’s something worth adding to your bucket list.
  3. Get up close and personal with owls and falcons! Visits can be arranged (between April and October) to the falconer in the tent on the Bastion, next to the castle. You get to see the beautiful creatures up close and the falconer will tell you all about falconry in the time of Count Floris V.
  4. Fun and educational for kids! There’s plenty of games and entertainment for children at Muiderslot, as they explore the castle and its towers. You can buy them a small activities booklet from the ticket office, which adds a lot of interest and curiosity. They also get to dress up as knights and play with toy swords in the castle!
  5. Guided tour around the castle. Travel back in time to the 17th century, to the age of the most famous resident of Muiderslot; writer, historian and poet, P.C. Hooft. Visit the rooms used by the occupants of the castle, and learn all about the culture, customs and habits of the Golden Age.
  6. See the Water Shield and visit the historical gardens. I didn’t get around to doing this myself, as we had to make it a quick visit and prioritized seeing the birds over the gardens, but hopefully I’ll one day return and spend some time enjoying them – as well as the water shield pavilion (which is yet another thing your kids will enjoy)

Are you ready to visit Muiderslot? See, told you you’d love it!

Here’s some practical information:

The castle is open to the public all year around, but opening hours depends on the season.

From April 1st to October 31st,  visiting hours are between 10 am to 5 pm from Monday to Friday, and from noon until 5 pm during weekends.

From November 1st to March 31st, the castle is closed to the public during weekdays, and is open from noon until 5 pm during weekends. However, during school holidays from December 23rd until January 7th, you will be able to visit from noon to 5 pm, all week!

Visit the official website of Muiderslot for more information.

(below is the view from one of the towers)

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