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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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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Beer bars and balcony breakfast in Haarlem (the Netherlands)

Just so you know, this post is about Haarlem in the Netherlands, not Harlem in New York (formerly known as New Amsterdam). Harlem (NY) is however, named after Haarlem in the Netherlands. But apart from it all being Dutch at some point in history, those two Ha(a)rlem’s have very little in common.

So, where’s Haarlem?

The city has almost 156 000 inhabitants and is the capital of Noord-Holland (Holland is not the name of the country, but two provinces) – and you’ll easily get there from Amsterdam, as it’s only  a 15 minute train ride away.

What does beer have to do with Haarlem?

Haarlem has a long history of beer brewing – a very important industry in the city. Until the 16th century, the water used for beer, was taken from the canals in the city. But, as the canals got more an more polluted, the water could no longer be used. From the 17th century, water was transported to the breweries from Brouwerskolkje (I bet you a pint you’re not gonna remember that name). The canal that leads to there, still exists and is now called the Brewers’ Canal (Brouwersvaart).

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What did I get up to in Haarlem (besides drinking beer)?

While my significant other and I were road tripping through the Netherlands, Haarlem just happened to be our destination of choice. Conveniently located near Amsterdam, which is where I celebrated my 30th birthday, the day before visiting Haarlem – and close to Alkmaar and the famous cheese market (went there, did that). And it’s also close to Zaanse Schans, a charming little windmill village.

We went to all of these places – and many more. We followed a busy “to-do” list most of the time while visiting the Netherlands, and frankly, scheduling in two days of downtime in Haarlem was probably the best idea we had, while creating our itinerary. We needed that. And we needed those two nights of self-pampering at Haarlem Hotel Suites.

The suite had the comfiest beds ever, and our balcony was spacious enough for the two of us to hang out in the sun, drink beer, eat chips and dip and just take a breather – and get fat and drunk while doing so.

Waking up to the staff serving us a large, varied and tasty breakfast in the room, just made the experience even better. I felt like a queen. Privileged, spoiled and pretty effin’ fabulous, I dined on the balcony, wearing nothing but an oversized bathrobe and slippers. The sun was shining, the church bells were ringing and my boyfriend was just as happy as I was. If I could do this every day, I would. Hands down.

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When we weren’t busy stacking up on calories while relaxing on the balcony or while cocooning on the couch in front of the TV, we visited downtown Haarlem and its many beer bars. Our absolute favorite was the Jopenkerk – a former church converted into a bar, restaurant and brewery. The beer menu was so overwhelming I had to ask the waiter for suggestions. The first beer I tried was slightly too bitter for my liking, but the second one was a very pleasant surprise. When the waiter introduced it to me as a sour (open fermentation) beer brewed with algae, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. It sounded strange, but I trusted his opinion and gave it a try. And to my surprise, it was oh so delicious, and I just couldn’t resist ordering a second one. Ever since that day, I’ve been obsessed with old sour dark beers!

We also discovered a nice – and very instagrammable – little cafe called Native, while strolling along the streets and doing a bit of shopping. As a self proclaimed coffee addict, I am sure I would have ordered a latte or a cappuccino, if it hadn’t been so warm outside. Besides, most of the other guests at the cafe were sipping on lemonade, so I ended up ordering the same thing. An ice cold glass of elderberry lemonade. Tasty and refreshing!

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Haarlem is more than just beer and lemonade (or coffee), but checking out the bar scene is definitely a must-do while in town. If you’ve already been to Jopenkerk or you’re looking for yet another beer bar suggestion, I’ll advice you to check out Uiltje Bar, Brewery and Taproom . They offer free tours in the brewery every weekend, host events and serve great craft beer and finger food.

And the city, what does the city of Haarlem look like?

It looks like a typical Dutch city. Charming Flemish architecture, nice little canals, quaint town square (Grote Markt) , beautiful churches, busy restaurants and lots and lots of bicycles everywhere.

It was the perfect place to be for two people in need to calm down and throw that itinerary out the window, tune out and just take some time to really appreciate high quality beer and blend in with locals.

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My Travel Highlights of 2016

2017 is already here and my New Year’s resolutions have been made – along with an even larger bucket list than ever before. Seems like the more I travel, the hungrier I get for more. And the more I learn, the more I realize how little I once knew about the great world out there and all the people living in it. While 2016 was the year I traveled only within the borders of my continent, Europe, 2017 will take me to at least two others – and who knows where else destiny decides to take me this year?

2016 was a year filled with great highs as well as some lows. Unstable economy, feeling lonely as an expatriate in a foreign country, death in the family, losing touch with friends, pitching article after article to magazines with little result, getting criticized for putting so much time and effort into my blog when I “should be spending my time doing something more useful” – these events have caused a lot of stress, sadness and feeling of hopelessness for me. Traveling – and the love and support from my partner – gave me the strength I needed to be able to look back on 2016 as a great year instead of feeling like a complete failure.

Because…

I welcomed 2016 by watching the beautiful fireworks display in Warsaw, Poland with my family and my partner. We visited the Christmas market in the Old Town and danced the night away at the New Year’s gala in our hotel.

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I visited London, England for the first time in many years, and had a great time catching up with a friend who moved to London for work. We went salsa dancing, salsa eating (nachos) and visited all the touristic sites together.

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A romantic weekend trip to Copenhagen, Denmark was the Christmas present from me to my significant other. We stuffed our faces with Danish pastries, laughed our asses off while the fish tickled our toes at a duo fish spa, visited the castles and the little mermaid and enjoyed the snow – although I would have been happier if my partner hadn’t kept throwing snowballs at me.

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I visited Belgium for the first time…and second…and third. My partner and I embarked on plenty of amazing road trips this year and visiting certain destinations in Belgium was part of those trips. Romantic Bruges, charming Antwerp and multicultural Brussels. I’ve fallen in love with Belgium – and Belgian beer!

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And then there was the trip to Luxembourg in May. The surprise birthday present from my partner. We visited Luxembourg city, two castles elsewhere in the country and saw Hans Zimmer live in the amazing concert venue Rockhal. Probably the best birthday I’ve ever had.

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Late June and early July was spent traveling by train with my mother. From Oslo, Norway to Karlstad, Sweden – then back to Norway to visit Sandefjord and Kristiansand, before returning to Stavanger to spend a couple of days relaxing at home before returning to France. Photo below was taken while visiting Tungenes Fyr (lighthouse).

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The weekend of Bastille Day (14th of July) was spent visiting Saint Malo, Mont Saint-Michel, Dinan and Rennes in France. My partner and I watched the fireworks in Saint Malo, drank cider and ate delicious crêpes (the local Bretagne/Brittany specialty). Calories and carbs taste better in France than anywhere else.

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One of my biggest highlights of the year was to volunteer in Moldova. I got to know so many lovely people – volunteers and locals – and my host family was the nicest I could  ever have asked for. I also got to taste some amazing wine from the Purcari Winery while I was there. I’ve been spreading the word about how great Moldovan wine is, ever since.

 

Another great highlight was the writing retreat in Barcelona, Spain with Pink Pangea where I got to know like-minded travel writers – all women – explored the city of Barcelona and did a lot of soul searching as well. We laughed, shed some tears, plenty of hugs and shared our most personal stories – travel related and non-travel related. It was therapeutic and inspired me to not just become a better writer but a better person as well.

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In September my partner and I embarked on yet another road trip to a different part of France. This time to the southwest. We explored some spectacular caverns, enjoyed the local wines and visited idyllic and picturesque little towns. I have never taken as beautiful photos as I did in the southwest of France. No wonder so many people dream about this country, and so many writers find inspiration here.

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We didn’t spend longer than twenty-four hours at home before we were back on the road again. Well, towards the airport this time to catch a flight to Athens, Greece. The week in Athens was filled with food, historical ruins, food, more history and even more food. Greek cuisine is simply just too good!

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Winter Beer Day, Christmas markets and celebrating my parents wedding anniversary and my stepfather’s birthday was how we spent our long weekend in Hamburg, Germany…And taking pictures from the Elbphilharmonie concert hall. What a windy affair that was.

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And then there was December and all those Christmas markets. Paris (France), London (England), Reims (Champagne, France), Cologne (Germany) and Oslo (Norway). I didn’t get a white Christmas this year either, but I got so much more. So much more that mattered a lot more to me than snowflakes. Spending time at these markets with the people I care about, laughing, smiling and cheering while tasting local specialties – now that sure got me into the Christmas spirit! Photo below is from Oslo, Norway.

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Now, excuse me while I pack my bags to go to Marrakech, Morocco tomorrow. 2017 started in Trondheim, Norway and after a few days of rest in France I am now ready for new adventures!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Christmas Markets in Cologne, Germany are simply magical

This year I’ve visited quite a few different Christmas markets. Lovely Christmas markets – by all means – but maybe a bit too much in a short matter of time..so much that I was starting to feel like I’d overdosed on Christmas and worried about coming down with the worst hangover ever. I didn’t want to be the Grinch, but sometimes too much feels like too much. On top of everything, I had caught a cold which made the idea of traveling to visit yet another Christmas market seem rather exhausting.

That was until I went to Cologne in Germany this week.

Spellbound by the charm and the authenticity of the markets located in this wonderful city, I had regained my Christmas spirit and tossed away my inner Grinch.

Each of these six markets has its unique style. Although the one in front of Cathedral Kölner Dom is the most well known of the city’s Christmas markets, there is absolutely no reason for you not to check out the others as well. You’ll be missing out on a simply magical experience!

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The marine themed market by the harbor looks amazing as darkness falls and lights illuminate the bridge connecting the two parts of the market separated by the river Rhine.

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The market by the Cathedral has a layer of little Christmas lights installed above all the stalls – enchanting little lights that make you feel like you’re gazing at a beautiful starry night sky.

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The Old Town market (Heimat der Heinzel) has a spectacular ice rink and lovely decorations, just enough to get you into the Holiday spirit and head to the bar for a glühwein or an eierpunsch – last one being my favorite hot beverage in Germany (hot eggnog).

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Then there’s the market that – in my opinion – is the most romantic one. With illuminated hearts decorating the trees, a cute little Ferris wheel turning in a strangely high speed for an attraction like this and plenty of cute little shops, how can you not fall in love with the market – or AT the market (the atmosphere is there, so why not?).

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The other two markets were lovely as well. I ate well (perhaps a bit too much at times), I drank well, I was in good company with my partner and his family, we laughed, we bought cute little gifts, we sang, we smiled.

Thank you Cologne – Thank you Germany. Thank you for getting me into the Holiday Spirit. I’ll see you again, next year!

Until then, let these photos inspire you.

Photos from the market by the harbor

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Photos from Neumarkt (the market of the angels)

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Photos from the Old Town market (Heimat der Heinzel)

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…and the romantic one right next to that market

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Photos from the Nikolausdorf market

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And let’s not forget the market by the Kölner Dom

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