The best flexible work spots in Hilversum for freelancers

Freelancer? Remote worker? Me too! (The latter.) I often work from my office at home, but sometimes you need to get out of the house! Maybe you need some human interaction… or even just a good coffee! Enter the coffee shop… no, not that kind!! We’re in the Netherlands but I’m talking beverages here!!

Freelancers need a good cafe where they can hang out and work… somewhere with strong wifi and equally strong coffee…

I’ve visited A LOT of cafes in Hilversum over my 4 years of working from home, so let me share my favourite spots with you:

1. MOUT

Mout Hilversum

If you follow me on Instagram, you will know I’m here, A LOT. And why? Because it’s so damn good. Food halls are fantastic concepts in general but here it’s done really well. Drinks are ordered at your table by waiting staff, and food is ordered at each individual food stall using your table number. A lot of food halls require queuing and waiting for your food, but here they will bring it to your table as soon as it’s ready. Simple and effective.

The choice is massive, from Vietnamese food to salads, Italian to fish and chips, to Latin American food and Dim Sum. They really have it all. My personal tip: the sweet potato fries with Parmesan and basil mayo are THE ONE!!

Oh and there’s free, open wifi, a water dispenser, and the place is massive so there’s loads of seating to choose from, inside and out. (They also do bitterballen, but not very good ones unfortunately… )

Mouthilversum.nl | Naarderstraat 8

 

2. Bagels & Beans

It can get a little noisy in here, so it depends what kind of work you’re doing. I can’t go here when I’m working on spreadsheets!! But other than that, it’s a good bet. The food is delicious, the wifi works and it’s split on 3 levels so you’ll almost always find a place to sit.

The best thing on the menu is without a doubt the Paddo burger (mushroom burger). They have gluten free and low gluten bagels and there are lactose free options too. Everyone’s a winner.

Bagelsbeans.nl | Kerkstraat 3

 

3. Presto Coffee & More

This is a cute little place slightly out of the centre. Which is good, because generally it means it’s quieter than the other places I’ve mentioned so far. The wifi is good and the interior is really cool – industrial meets homely. Bag yourself a seat on the turquoise sofa if you can!! There’s also plenty of outside seating but unfortunately not much view to speak of.

They have gluten and lactose free options and a page of specials, so there’s always something new to try. The banana bread (gluten/lactose/sugar free) comes highly recommended! 😀

Presto Facebook page (no website) | Herenstraat 20

 

4. Your Coffee

Your Coffee Hilversum

I think everyone in Hilversum knows this place… hence it’s always packed! But you can usually find a table as there’s loads of seating inside (2 levels) and out. There’s also a section / play area for kids upstairs… but this post is about remote working, so moving swiftly on!!

If you’ve built up an appetite whilst working they do an excellent Buddha bowl and the chicken thighs with spelt bread is also really good!

There’s no service upstairs, but if you can’t be bothered to walk downstairs to order they have these little notes where you can write your order and then put it inside a ball and drop it down a drainpipe-esque chute! A fun way to order and it works!!

Yourcoffeehilversum.nl | Kerkstraat 38A

 

5. Doppio Espresso

I went here this week and had a Bountyccino!! OMG. And it’s lactose free… WIN! There’s a terrace outside and plenty of space to sit inside. It’s actually quite deceptive just how large it is inside, so I doubt you’ll ever struggle to find space. Lots of staff so service is attentive. Recommended!

Doppioespresso.nl | ‘s-Gravelandseweg 14

 

So, those 5 are all in Hilversum but if you fancy going a bit further afield I can also suggest the following:

 

6. Heidezicht

Heidezicht

This place has also featured on my Instagram account a fair few times recently! To be honest I haven’t worked here yet – but I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t! The location is great, in the middle of the Hei (heathland) hence the name… and it’s just a lovely, peaceful place to hang out.

Not too many food options on the menu, but the charcuterie platter (pictured above) is pretty good. In terms of borrelhapjes (for once you’ve finished working, as it’s open til 8pm): the garnalenkroketjes are good (8/10), bitterballen are ok (7/10) but unfortunately the groentekroketjes are decidedly average (5/10).

Heidezicht.nl | Randweg 203, Bussum

 

7. Theehuis ‘t Bluk

This place also has a great view. It’s *technically* located in Laren but from Hilversum it’s a nice walk or cycle through the Hei to get to it!

Good wifi and menu – the borrelplanken are very good – especially the cheese one! Service can be a bit hit and miss… but hey, we’re in Holland remember!

Bluk.nl | Zuiderheide 2, Laren

 

8. Brambergen

I’m a sucker for a view!! What can I say!? This place is also located a bit out-of-the-way in ‘s-Graveland. But it’s well worth the drive or cycle as you’re surrounded by nature! I wouldn’t recommend walking from Hilversum because it’s too far, about an hour walk according to Google.

It’s situated right next to the visitor centre for the Natuurmonumenten – “Nature Monuments’ (jeez, how do you translate that?!) Here it is in Dutch anyhoo: Bezoekerscentrum Gooi en Vechtstreek – Natuurmonumenten)

It can get a little busy at times, but usually it’s quiet enough to work. (Tip: avoid Wednesday afternoons as many kids are off school then and it does get rammed!) The kaasstengels are excellent and they also do gluten/lactose/sugar free banana bread!

Brambergen.nl | Noordereinde 54d, ‘s-Graveland

 

I hope you enjoy these work spots! If you try any of them out, please do let me know what you think!

Did I miss one? Please let me know! I’m always looking for cute new hangouts! 🙂

Hayley x

 

Advertisements

My travel plans for 2018 and beyond

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal

I’ve been debating about whether to post this or not because I don’t want to appear like I’m boasting. One of my main goals in life is to not be a dick, especially online. So yeah, there’s that.

But maybe online bragging isn’t actually bragging at all. Perhaps we’re all just talking about and sharing what we love most? What we spend most of our time on, and possibly most of our money on.

We all have those friends who post a gazillion baby pictures online. Others share car pics, or fancy food they’re eating in restaurants, or photos of their outfit/shoes/handbags… other friends of mine are having extensions or renovating… so then you get all the interior design posts. Everyone’s got their own thing.

Mine is travel. It’s my true passion. And once my bills are paid – it’s what I spend most of my time dreaming about and therefore what I like to spend my money on.

So this is personal post today because I’ve been a busy little bee. I’ve been booking trips and using our savings to make the next 5 months bloody brilliant! I’m so excited I’m almost beyond words… almost! 😉 And the fact that I’m so excited means I’m telling anyone and everyone who will listen about my plans… and that includes you!

 

Sept 2018 – Lisbon, Portugal

The first trip we have planned is to Portugal for my birthday! We have two sets of friends who live in Portugal, so we’re lucky to be able to stay with them, which reduces our travelling costs significantly! 🙂 (By the way… I’m probably going to write a separate post about how I save money for travelling, as it’s something I get asked all the time!)

We’re going to spend three nights with our friends in Lisbon and then two nights at our other friend’s place which is around an hour away from Lisbon. I’m not sure where it is exactly, but her description is: “in the middle of nowhere” so I’m looking forward to a city trip AND a couple of days to switch off and enjoy the surroundings (or lack thereof). Hiking and nature = my idea of heaven!

 

Oct 2018 – Helsinki, Finland

October sees a visit to my 23rd country with my favourite Finn! (Does it matter that I only know 2 Finnish people!? Haha… oops!) My lovely friend Senja from Het Finse Meisje is going to play tour guide in her hometown of Helsinki for a weekend in October and I can’t think of a better way to explore a new city than with locals! 🙂 Although Senja isn’t a local herself anymore, she knows the city a million times better than I ever could and we’ll be meeting up with some of her friends too, so hopefully they can show us all the new hangouts and hotspots!

 

Nov 2018 – Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll already know about this one. I’m sooooooooooooooooooo excited to go back to Thailand!!! Although I’ve been twice before, I’ve never been to Chiang Mai. I’m going on my own for 2 weeks as the Dutchie has run out of holiday, so this will be my second ever solo trip!!

Photo by my friend MA

I’m going to spend a week volunteering at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai and the other week I’ll be working remotely (no, *your* boss is a legend!!) and exploring the city.

 

Dec 2018 – UK

It wouldn’t be Christmas without seeing the family would it? We’re off to the UK in mid-December for our annual ‘fake Christmas’ which coincides nicely with my work Christmas conference.

We’re also going to Maastricht in December for the Christmas markets with the Dutchie’s Mum and sister. It’s a tradition we started in 2015 in Koblenz (we missed 2016 as we were in Asia) and then in 2017 we went to Düsseldorf, so this year we want to see how the Dutch Christmas markets compare to their German rivals! This is our Christmas present to his Mum/sister – ‘presence over presents’ and all that 🙂

 

Dec 2018 & Jan 2019 – Malaysia

On 29th Dec we’re flying to KL baby!!! We’ll be spending New Year’s Eve in Kuala Lumpur… woop woop!! Then we have 4 nights in Penang and 11 nights in Langkawi! I absolutely cannot wait… I already have the feeling this is going to be one of the best trips we’ve been on! Fingers crossed!!

We’ve never been to Penang or Langkawi so any tips are – as always – much appreciated!

 

How about you? How are your next 5/6 months looking travel-wise or otherwise?!

Also, which destination(s) would you most like to hear about from my travels?

Hayley x

 

My favourite destinations – Cancale: The Oyster Capital of Brittany

Over the next few months, I’m going to start sharing some of my favourite places on earth, because it’s something that I love to write about. I *almost* want to keep some of them a secret… but Cancale is too good not to share!

Cancale - The Oyster Capital of Brittany

So, if you’re ever in Bretagne (Brittany) in France and you’re a seafood lover – make sure Cancale is top of your ‘to do’ list! It’s dubbed “the oyster capital of Brittany” with very good reason!

 

Cancale is located on the coast of North-West France, close to Saint-Malo. It is a small, picturesque fishing port, but due to its popularity, it has a large number of bars, cafes and restaurants. Most of the restaurants specialise in – you guessed it – seafood! In other words… mine and the Dutchie’s idea of heaven!! (If it’s possible, I think he even loves Cancale more than I do!!)

Huîtres

Oyster farming is still a major activity in the port and there are oyster beds covering about 7 square kilometres – easily seen from the pier at the harbour. These beds harvest about 25,000 tons of oysters each year. (Source)

Cancale - The Oyster Capital of Brittany

To sample them, you don’t need go to a restaurant, oh no – the way to do it is to have someone from the market stalls shuck them for you and then eat them perched on the wall overlooking the beach. The oyster stalls are located at the far end of the port next to the lighthouse (more details below).

Oysters at Cancale, France

Cancale

See how happy we were with our oysters?!

A fraction of the price and very authentic! Tip: We only had diet coke with us on our last trip, but sensible (and I suspect – French) people brought along a bottle of chilled white wine!

Obviously it has to be good weather to sit on the beach and devour oysters, so plan your trip wisely. But people don’t come to Northern France for the weather! But if it rains, you can always go to a restaurant…

Cancale, France

Crèpes et Coquillages

The only restaurant we’ve been to in Cancale, and therefore the only one I can recommend is: Crèpes et Coquillages. (Other reviewers on Trip Advisor definitely agree with us!) The moules (mussels) with Roquefort sauce were nothing short of amazing… in fact I’ve gone off mussels of late, but these brought the love back. *That’s how good they were!*

We also had the fish soup – a steaming bowl of orange, crabby deliciousness and my Mum had a galette (crèpe) which she said was superb. (As superb as a crèpe can be I guess. Boring imo!)

Bar le Tapecul

We’ve also been to Bar le Tapecul for a drink; it’s a lovely cosy little bar and if you’re lucky you can grab a seat outside! Bliss!

Bar le Tapecul, Cancale

I hope that’s persuaded you to visit Cancale and if so, there’s a bit of logistical info below. Any questions, just shout!

Where’s your favourite place in the world to eat oysters?

Hayley x

 

THE LOWDOWN

Getting to Cancale: 

Public transport: There are no trains to the town, so if you’re using public transport you need to take a bus to / from St-Malo.

By car: Put “Chez Victor, Cancale” into your sat nav. (We use Google maps.) This will send you right to the end of the port – you’ll see the car park on the left. The road is aptly named Rue des Parcs. Cost is around €1.50 per hour.

Oysters:

Prices vary depending on size and quality. You can get #1 oysters (the biggest/best) for around €5.60 for a dozen. You also need to pay extra for napkins and lemon (50 cents each).

 

“But you’re so good with kids…”

A few weeks back, my brother commented “You’re so good with kids.” It came a bit out of nowhere, but I said thank you and genuinely accepted the compliment. Something I’m not normally that good at doing. I went back to playing ‘tea party’ with my nieces and felt satisfied. HE GOT IT.

I’m tearing up right now, writing this.

You see, normally when people give you such a compliment, they have to go and ruin it by adding “You’d be such a good mother…” or “When *are* you having kids?” or my personal favourite: “You’ll feel ready / change your mind one day…”

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is.

I am child free, by choice.

If you’re good at cooking, no one bangs on about how you MUST be a chef. (Unless you’re like reaaaaaaally good, Masterchef standard, and then they’ll just send the application off for you! Bastards!) Anyway, just because you’re good at cooking doesn’t mean you want to dedicate your life to it, to spending your evenings and weekends in a hot, sweaty kitchen. The long hours, the pressure.

Maybe you just want to cook in your own kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, at your own pace, with a glass of wine.

I’ve got plenty of other metaphors and I could bang on for another few paragraphs, but I’m sure you get my point.

I’m 35 now. Almost 36. Most people have stopped asking me if/when I’m going to have kids… thank god! I think about 90% of my close friends and family now understand and accept the fact that it’s not going to happen.

But maybe you’re not so lucky – and I feel for you. Really I do.

I’ll just wrap up by saying another thank you to my brother. You are a legend in many ways, and this is just one of them.

Hayley x

 

Are you child free? What have your experiences been? Please do share – if you feel able. It’s good to talk! 😀

 

11 Questions

Cancale

My friend Senja from Het Finse Meisje nominated me for a Liebster award, and although I’ve been nominated in the past I’ve never done anything about it. There are lots of rules and you have to tag other bloggers and stuff (it’s to introduce people to new bloggers and I get that it’s a nice initiative) BUT me being me I’m not going to do any of that. Rules schmules. However, I did like Senja’s questions so I spent a bit of time answering them while the Dutchie was driving us back from France on Sunday. So if you fancy a read… here goes:

1. What made you start blogging?

Insomnia. I’ve had insomnia on and off for over 10 years and 2013 was a particularly bad time. I was awake most nights thinking about everything that was going on in my life and I thought writing some stuff down might help. It started in diary form and I found it so therapeutic I wanted to write more than just an insomnia diary and do something more ‘useful’ with my (unwanted) spare time. Towards the end of 2013 I was on holiday in Thailand and the name Bitterballenbruid came to me. I started the blog as soon as I got back.

2. What is your dream travel destination and why?

Funnily enough I’ve always thought it was Japan, but I got the opportunity to go this year with one of my best friends and I didn’t take it. I came to a realisation earlier this year that I dislike big cities, and so on researching Japan – Tokyo in particular – it just really didn’t sound like my cup of tea. I know it’s an amazing country and I’m sure I will visit one day, but my gut instinct told me not to book the trip, so I didn’t.

Ha, that went off on a massive tangent, sorry. But in answer to the question, Australia and New Zealand have been on my bucket list forever and I think that the nature aspect might suit my travel personality more. I also really want to give Vietnam another chance, we had a bad experience there in 2016 but I’ve heard nothing but good things from everyone else who has visited!!

3. If you had to move abroad tomorrow, where would that be?

Another tough one. Anyone who knows me will have heard about my unbridled passion for Malta. But with it being such a small island I’d be worried I’d get bored too quickly. So my back-up choices would be Portugal, Thailand and Cambodia.

I really like NL though! Anyone who is thinking about moving to Holland should seriously consider it. I can’t answer with the Netherlands though as I already live here!

4. Which dish can you cook very well?

Chilli con carne served with nachos and all the trimmings. I’m known as the Chilli Queen in my circle of friends. It’s the dish everyone requests when they come over.

5. If you had to pick one dish to eat for the rest of your life, what would that be?

Hahahaha, I am going to sound right up my own arse… but my own chilli and nachos 😂😂😂

6. What is the silliest thing you have ever done?

It’s a toss up between driving on the wrong side of a dual carriageway in Holland (there were roadworks!! It was very confusing and the sat nav sent me there!) and sleep walking into my ex-boyfriend’s Mum’s bed… NAKED… and then when she tried to wake me up… kissing her… TWICE.

Oh wait… the question wasn’t the most embarrassing thing you have ever done…

7. Which language would you like to speak fluently?

Spanish or Italian. Though I think I’d get more use out of Spanish because I really want to go to South America one day, so let’s go with that!

8. Which celebrity would you like to invite for dinner?

I would have said Jim Jeffries, hands down, but I’ve just seen his most recent Netflix show and he’s lost it 😕 so I’m going to have to go with Khloe Kardashian pre-baby.

9. What is your favourite film?

The correct answer to this question is Clueless but I often say True Romance because it’s way cooler. (This question/answer is actually already on my About page.)

10. Who is your biggest idol?

Hmmmmmm. I honestly don’t know. I want to say Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King or something like that but I actually don’t idolise anyone. We’re only human after all. At a push I’d have to say Marilyn Monroe because I’ve had this picture of her hanging on my wall forever and I just think she’s the most beautiful thing in the world. Perfectly imperfect.

Actually, I also have to say my Grandad because he was the greatest man who ever lived. He was so kind and put everyone before himself. All of his grandchildren thought they were his favourite, my siblings and I still regularly argue over it 😊 It was definitely me though! Haha.

11. What is your life motto?

Jeez, I can’t answer any of these questions directly can I!? 😂😂 I have a few:

Love is all

The happiest people don’t always have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything

Fuck perfect

And #bitterballenforlife

Hayley x

 

How about you? What’s your life motto? I love a good quote… so hit me up in the comments!

 

 

My personal tips for Malta

Mellieha, Malta

Mellieha, Malta

Hi! The title of this post could’ve been catchier I realise, but what it actually is – is 100% honest. I could’ve called it ‘The Ultimate Guide to Malta’ or ‘Top 10 Things to do in Malta’ or something SEO-y like that (yes, obviously I get why other travel bloggers do it) but I’m calling bullsh*t on people pretending to know everything about a place when they’ve been once!

This is a personal pet peeve of mine because I work in the travel publishing industry and I’m currently working with a lot of bloggers… so the first thing I’ll always check is what posts they have about Amsterdam. Most of them are complete crap (#sorrynotsorry) so it’s a very quick way for me to separate the wheat from the chaff…

Anyway, small industry rant over!

Full disclaimer: I’ve been to Malta three times. Therefore I *do* know more than the average bear… but I’m no expert. Nor do I profess to be. These are my tips for Malta, ones I’d give to family or friends who are going on holiday there. Things I did and thought were awesome, without a side of bs.

You’re welcome!

 

Where to stay in Malta:

I’ve stayed in 3 different places in Malta:

The Waterfront Hotel, Sliema – 4 star (apparently – it’s more like 3 tbh). Great views and cocktails. Rooftop bar / pool, but the pool itself is teeny. Would recommend it if you want to be close to St Julian’s but not stay in St Julian’s… or if you want to be close to Valletta but not stay in Valletta 😉

Cocktails at the Waterfront Hotel, Sliema, Malta

Cocktails at the Waterfront Hotel, Sliema, Malta

db Seabank Resort and Spa, Mellieha – another 4 star but this one probably does deserve 4 (at least it did when we last visited). It’s an all-inclusive resort though, which I DO NOT recommend. The food in Malta is soooooo goooood you do not want to be all inclusive! Good location, very close to Mellieha Bay and Popeye Village (more on those later).

Pergola Hotel and Spa, Mellieha – also 4 star but more like 3. Great location and views, but it’s a very noisy hotel. (Especially where we stayed which was right by reception.) Great full English breakfast in the on-site cafe.

View from Pergola Hotel, Mellieha, Malta

View from Pergola Hotel, Mellieha, Malta

Conclusion: I personally wouldn’t stay in any of these hotels again as I like trying new places, however I do recommend Mellieha as a base. I recently helped my Mum and Dad book a trip to Malta and they’re going to the Maritim Antonine Hotel & Spa which looks awesome! (I haven’t stayed there myself but it’s very close to the Pergola hotel, so we walked past it pretty much every day on our last trip. The rooftop restaurant looks ace!)

If you don’t fancy that, there are plenty of other hotels and Airbnb properties in Mellieha! Just make sure you read lots (and lots and lots) of reviews before booking.

 

What to do in Mellieha: 

So, if you’ve listened to my advice 😉 you’ll be basing yourself in the north of the island in Mellieha. Good choice! I’ll start there first, and then give some tips for the rest of the island.

 

Views

As I’ve already mentioned, there are fantastic views from The Pergola Hotel (if you’re a non-resident you can still visit the bar/restaurant), same goes for Maritim Antonine Hotel & Spa.

You can also get a fab view from Sea View Café – they do simple food like sandwiches and salads, plus lots of cocktails.

Sea View Cafe, Mellieha, Malta

Sea View Cafe, Mellieha, Malta

 

Food 

One80 Kitchen and Lounge have the most amazing Octopus carpaccio… hands down one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted in my life. I’d go back to Malta just for that tbh. The scallop and prawn dish was also top-notch. I didn’t get a photo of that as I devoured it in about 10 seconds flat!

Octopus Carpaccio at one80 Bar and Kitchen, Mellieha, Malta

Octopus Carpaccio at one80 Bar and Kitchen, Mellieha, Malta

Ocean Bar for the best fish & chips I’ve had in a long time. They have a gluten free version too! The bar looks a bit ropey from the outside, but the owners are really friendly and it’s so worth it for the food!! Very budget friendly too!

Fish & Chips at Ocean Bar, Mellieha, Malta

Fish & Chips at Ocean Bar, Mellieha, Malta

Debbie’s Café is a good bet for brunch if you want an avocado based meal. If you want a full English, the one at the Pergola Hotel and Spa is better.

We also ate at Rebekah’s restaurant… which was a bit stuffy, overpriced and disappointing and at Bouquet Garni (no website) where we had amazing seafood platters which were really reasonably priced… but the lighting was bad so no pictures. Soz.

 

Bars

There’s a bar/restaurant at Mellieha Bay called Munchies, I’ve never eaten there but it’s nice for drinks if you can get a table on the terrace.

We also liked Charlie’s Bar. It’s a bit of a dive bar and it’s popular with local expats, but everyone was really friendly and we loved the pub quiz (every Thursday night). We even won the 90’s pop quiz! Score!!

 

See & Do

Parish Church of Mellieha – also known as The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha is a beautiful highlight of Mellieha. You can’t miss it, literally!

Parish Church of Mellieha

Parish Church of Mellieha

It’ll be in pretty much all of your Mellieha photos, it’s such an iconic building perched on the hilltop. It’s also worth exploring the beautiful gardens for the amazing views. I’ve never been inside the church, but I’m told it’s spectacular so that’s on my to-do list for next time!

 

Popeye Village / Anchor Bay is well worth a visit. (There’s no need to visit Popeye Village itself unless you’re with kids. The film set from the 1980 film has been turned into an open air museum / theme park). Depending on where you’re staying in Mellieha you can either walk here or take the bus. More info on their website.

Hopefully this photo explains why you should go there:

Popeye Village / Anchor Bay, Mellieha, Malta

Popeye Village / Anchor Bay, Mellieha, Malta

 

Paradise Bay – I’d like to say it does what it says on the tin, but in the interests of remaining 100% honest… it’s not exactly paradise. I mean it’s nice, but if you want paradise beaches you probably need to go to Thailand…

Anyway, it’s still lovely and well worth a visit, even if the name is a bit over-confident 😉 And it’s easy to reach by bus!

Paradise Bay, Malta

Paradise Bay, Malta

Paradise Bay, Malta

Paradise Bay, Malta

 

Ghajn Tuffieha Bay / Golden Bay are next to each other, so if you visit one, you might as well visit t’other! Again, very easy to reach by bus and the views are beautiful…

Ghajn Tuffieha Tower, Mellieha, Malta

Ghajn Tuffieha Tower, Mellieha, Malta

Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, Mellieha, Malta

Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, Mellieha, Malta

 

Red Tower (St Agatha’s Tower) 

Much like Mellieha Church, you can see the Red Tower from most places in Mellieha. If you like hiking, it’s well worth the climb to see the tower close up. If you plan your visit around the opening times, you can also get a magnificent view from the tower itself.

Red Tower, Mellieha, Malta

Red Tower, Mellieha, Malta

More info on St Agatha’s Tower website. It can also be reached by car or by bus, the closest bus stop is Qammieh.

 

What to do elsewhere on Malta:

There are SO many places to go on the island – so it really depends how much time you have and your priorities. But here are some of my faves:

Comino & Gozo – if you have time, I highly recommend taking a boat trip to Malta’s sister islands. Unfortunately, Gozo’s main tourist attraction, the Azure Window, is no more after severe storms in March 2017. But it’s still worth a visit. Gozo has a lot more going on, however many people still visit the site of the former Azure Window and the nearby Blue Hole. (I’m also making a mental note to explore more of Gozo on my next trip…)

Comino is really all about the Blue Lagoon. It can become really over-crowded in the summer months, so try to go in winter or shoulder season if you can. And if you must go in summer, then at least try to avoid the weekends.

Very happy to be at the Blue Lagoon, Comino on our 1st wedding anniversary

Very happy to be at the Blue Lagoon, Comino on our 1st wedding anniversary

 

Sliema – we loved our first visit to Sliema, but after visiting Mellieha, the north has won our hearts. Sliema is still well worth a visit though. There’s cool street art, some lovely bars and restaurants, plus it’s an ideal location if you want to be close to St Julian’s and/or Valletta. (Tip: for cheap and cheerful Thai food, go to Good Thaimes! Props for the name too…)

Sliema. Malta

Sliema. Malta

 

The best place for lively nightlife is St Julian’s / Paceville… so stay away if you’re not into that! There are also several casinos. It was a little while back, but our favourite place in St Julian’s was Fresco’s Cafe & Restaurant. (Happy to see it still has great reviews on Trip Advisor!)

St Julians, Malta

St Julians, Malta

 

Marsaxlokk is fantastic if you like seafood. There’s a fish market every Sunday, but seriously, who wants to cook when they’re on holiday? A few years back we went to Tartarun Fish Restaurant which is apparently still a good shout (Number 2 of 48 seafood restaurants in Marsaxlokk). Looks like it’s a bit pricier these days, but when we went it was worth every penny. Make sure you book!

If you do go to Marsaxlokk, you might as well also go to St Peter’s Pool too, as it’s close by. It’s not a beach – more like a rocky pool as the name suggests. When we visited loads of people were jumping off the rocks – even the Dutchie had a go! (I’m a wuss, so I did not!!)

St Peters Pool

St Peters Pool

St Peter’s Pool is no secret (unfortunately) so try to avoid the weekends if you can, otherwise it’ll be crazy busy. It’s also a bit of a pain in the arse to get to (we ended up spending a lot on taxis that day!) so if you can I would suggest hiring a car and driving yourself.

 

Mdina also known as the Silent City is Malta’s old capital – it dates back more than 4,000 years! You could spend hours wandering around the narrow, cobbled streets… and we actually did. This ancient walled city is tipped as one of Europe’s finest examples with its stunning mix of Baroque and Medieval architecture. My tip for Mdina is Fontanella Tea Gardens – you will thank me later for the views 🙂 🙂

Fontanella Tea Garden

Fontanella Tea Garden

 

Valletta for the historic stuff… I’ve left Valletta until last when I’m sure most people would’ve put this top of the list. After all it is the European Capital of Culture for 2018 and Malta’s capital city. I wasn’t a massive fan, I found it all a bit samey tbh… but you can’t go to the country without visiting the capital, right?

 

Food & Drink – Maltese specialties

Make sure you try pastizzi on your trip. As Malta’s national snack, they’re widely available at cafes and bakeries. They’re basically filo pastry filled with either ricotta or mushy peas. But which is your favourite? You’ll have to try both! 🙂

A Maltese platter is always a good idea – and it almost always come with bigilla (a broad bean dip) which is surprisingly awesome. I mean, it’s a bean dip. BUT IT’S SO DAMN GOOOOOD.

Maltese Platter

Maltese Platter at Ta Randi, Mellieha

One of the other famous dishes is rabbit. It’s on the menu at most restaurants in some shape or form. I had rabbit pasta twice on my first trip to Malta (ohhhhh, the good old days when I could still eat gluten… *sob*) and it was freaking delicious.

To be fair, all the food in Malta is just bloody amazing… so just go and eat everything! (Ps – I’m jealous!)

The local drinks are Cisk beer (pronounced “chisk”) and Kinnie which is kind of like coke. I say kind of because it’s bittersweet and has an orangy tang. It’s probably not for everyone, but I love it!

Cisk beer, Sliema, Malta

Cisk beer, Sliema, Malta

I can’t eat many desserts, coz y’know, lactose and gluten are in pretty much every dessert…  dammit. But what they do well in Malta is sorbet. Mmmmmm, lemon sorbet. For an extra kick, sometimes I’d also order limoncello liqueur and pour it on over! I got the idea from one80 Kitchen (mentioned earlier) when they served a limoncello slush puppie at the end of the meal. Yum!!

 

Transport:

Car hire: We’ve never hired a car in Malta, but obviously if you want to see and do a lot it’s probably a good idea! Seeing as I have no experience, I’ll let you Google that one for yourself 🙂

Taxis: On our first trip to Malta we took LOTS of taxis. (Tbf it was our 1 year wedding anniversary so we were celebrating!) But they’re flipping expensive and it certainly adds up. Not recommended unless you’re on a Kardashian budget!

Bus: If you don’t mind being a bus w*nker (and if you get that joke – you have very good taste in British TV shows!!) then it is definitely the cheapest way to get around! It costs €1.50 per journey in the winter to any destination, within two hours. So depending on how far you’re going, it can also serve as a return ticket. In the summer it’s €2 per journey for night buses it’s €3. You can find more info on the Malta Public Transport website.

Tour buses: I DO NOT recommend the hop-on-hop-off tourist buses. We did that once in Gozo and had a very bad experience. The driver was a maniac, you couldn’t see any of the sights from the bus – so it was hard to know when and where to get out and the roads are so narrow and unsuitable for buses that we kept getting hit by tree branches etc while on the top deck. Don’t bother!

 

When to visit:

We have visited in August and twice in January. August was waaaaaay too hot for our liking, so I wouldn’t recommend that. Probably the perfect time to visit would be in shoulder season – e.g. April/May or September/October. But we’ve always had a great time visiting in January. Sure, the weather’s not perfect as it’s still technically winter there, but it’s a damn sight better than the winter in Holland or the UK!

Golden Bay, Malta

Golden Bay in January 2018

 

So there you have it: my personal tips for Malta… now if you don’t mind me I’m off to torture myself by looking at flights to Luqa on Skyscanner.

Have you been to Malta? What was your favourite thing to do / eat / drink / see?

Hayley x

 

Thank you and good night…

Sunset, Polzeath, Cornwall

Sunset in Polzeath, Cornwall

It has dawned on me that my teeny tiny thank you about the blog awards in my last post was rather lacklustre and fleeting, sorry. So let’s rectify that.

I have posted my thanks on my social media channels, but perhaps there are readers out there who only follow me via the blog and therefore have not received the appreciation they deserve.

You see, my parents brought me up well. When I was young it was all “manners cost nothing” and that’s still true. We English love to be polite and I’m no exception.

Thus, to all of the people who took the time to vote for me in the Expat Awards last month: a huge thank you to each and every one of you. I really appreciate your support and I couldn’t have done it without you. THANK YOU with whipped cream and a cherry on top!

Dutchies: Hartelijk bedankt dat je de tijd hebt genomen om op mij te stemmen. Ik waardeer jullie steun enorm en ik had het niet zonder jullie kunnen doen. DANK JULLIE WEL! Ook slagroom en kersen voor jullie 😉

English peeps: yes, I said slag 😀

And anyhoo, since I’m here I just wanted to say doei (bye) for a few weeks. As I previously mentioned, I’m popping off to the UK for a bit and taking a proper break from everything. In between seeing family and friends, we’ll also be visiting Cornwall and the Lake District (my first time in the latter!!) so I’m very excited! I might post a pic or two on Insta if I can be arsed… my main account is @bitterballenbruid and my travel account is @bitterballenbruidtravels if you can be arsed to follow along 🙂

So enjoy this lekker weer (lovely weather) en tot een paar weken! (See you in a few weeks!)

See ya!

Hayley x

 

5 places I’ll be hanging out by the beach this summer

This weather right now is giving us a delicious taste of more sunny days to come in the Netherlands (I hope!!) and what better way to hang out in the sun than by the beach? Dutch people love terraces (terrasjes) when the sun’s out but I like to go one further when I possibly can. Being by the sea is probably my favourite thing in the world. And I know I’m not the only one. There’s something about the crashing waves, the fresh air and seeing the beautiful blue sea meet the sky on the horizon that makes me feel so calm and peaceful. After I’ve had my walk along the beach, I love going for a drink (and maybe some bitterballen!!) afterwards. Here a few of my favourite places:

Ubuntu Beach, Zandvoort

Ubuntu beach

Zandvoort is my favourite beach in the Netherlands. We’re lucky in that there are loads of beaches here and while I’ve not been to every single beach in Holland yet (a girl can dream, right?) I have been to a fair few. And of all the places I’ve been to in Zandvoort – since my first visit about 9 years ago – Ubuntu Beach is my favourite. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a view, Instagrammable shit (they have swings!!) and good bitterballen. Ubuntu beach has it all.

Bitterballen @ Ubuntu beach

Obviously if you go on a weekend when the weather’s nice, it’s going to be rammed – so if you can, try to go in the week. Or if you are visiting at the weekend, especially in summer – make sure you book. www.ubuntubeach.nl 

 

Hippie Fish, Zandvoort

Almost as good as Ubuntu but the interior is slightly less Instagrammable. My advice is to go to both! 🙂 Ubuntu for a drink and borrelhapjes, and then Hippie Fish for seafood.

Hippie Fish

Their seafood is the shit! www.hippiefish.nl

 

Beachclub de Branding, Noordwijk

My friend M introduced me to this place and I must say it’s quite similar to Ubuntu with the swings and the general vibe / Instagrammability… but then in Noordwijk. Last time we were here we had a delicious seafood platter (and bitterballen, obvs!) add a glass of chilled white wine and the view – you can’t get much better in my opinion!

Branding beach club

Branding Beach Club

As per the above, you’ll probably need to book if you’re visiting at the weekend! www.brandingbeach.nl

 

Key West Beach House, Utrecht

“Utrecht??” I hear you cry… and you’re right. There’s no real beach here, but to get to an actual beach from Hilversum (where I live) takes at least an hour in the car. However, this place delivers with a beachy vibe even though it’s only a lake. I love this place! Every time I come here it always feels like a little mini-holiday, if only for a few hours. You can get here by bus from Utrecht centraal or by car. There’s loads of free parking and depending on where you live you could also cycle.

Varied menu – we’ve only ever had hapjes but they’ve always been great! Not the cheapest place I guess, but you get what you pay for. In my opinion it’s really worth it for the holiday vibes.

www.keywestbeachhouse.nl

 

Dikke Muis, Loosdrecht

This one also isn’t a ‘real’ beach, but the lakes give you enough of a beach vibe to make it to this list – and it’s the one closest to Hilversum. Vuntusstrand (Vuntus beach) is mostly grassy, but there is a tiny patch of sand so you can get sand between your toes! Loads of Dutch people swim here in the summer, I did once but tbh I found it too gross and had to get out shortly afterwards. The water was so dirty / murky… not really selling it am I!! 😉

Vuntusstrand

I often come to Vuntus beach in the summer, the advantage of working from home is that I can do whatever I like on my lunch break and my hours are flexible, so I often cycle here on a sunny day and chill out and read a book. There are toilet facilities (if you’re desperate!!) but nowhere to get food / drinks so you can either bring your own or visit the ice cream parlour at the end of the street.

If you want a ‘real’ drink, I recommend the Dikke Muis (the Fat Mouse!). I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten more than bitterballen here but it’s all about the views! The interior décor is pretty cool too and the staff are always quite relaxed and friendly.

www.dedikkemuis.nl

 

Other places to consider:

Those 5 didn’t tickle your fancy? Or perhaps you live too far away… if so, here are a couple more which didn’t (quite) make it to my top 5:

Renesse – I loooooove Renesse but I’ve only been once and I’m not sure if I’ll make it back this year. It’s quite a long drive from where we live and we’d like to explore some new places this summer. However, if you do go I highly recommend: Bar Brut.

Domburg – Same excuses as above, but is is a fab place!! I recommend Oase Domburg  It’s right on the beach, expect to pay for the privilege 😉

Hoek van Holland – We’ve been here a few times now and love camping at Vakantiepark Vlugtenburg aan Zee. I’ve already written about that, so click the link if you fancy reading more 🙂

Texel – or any of the Waddenzee Islands for that matter. At Cocksdorp (Cock Town, hahahahaha) we liked Paal 28.

 

Where will you be hanging out this summer? And do you know somewhere awesome that I’ve missed?

Hayley x

 

 

4 years in the Netherlands – am I finally feeling homesick?

Polzeath

Exploring Polzeath in Cornwall

I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced homesickness before (hmmmm… except maybe when I went to Brownie camp when I was about 9 or 10). But since I’ve been living in the Netherlands? Nah! Not at all. Missing my family and friends, yes. Missing English pubs, definitely. English food in general, hell yes. But yearning to be in the UK. Never.

In case you haven’t noticed… I love Holland and I love living here. My 4 year expativersary (gasp!) was a couple of weeks ago and I also won an Expat blogger award last month!! Massive thanks again to everyone who voted! 🙂 But on a recent trip to the UK, I realised I actually missed it.

My Finnish friend, Senja, and I went over for the weekend for work and it made me see England with fresh eyes. She giggled at actually being able to wash your hands with hot water in bathrooms (in Holland they often only have a cold tap), she marvelled at the trees and all the greenery whilst we were on the train, and she was super-impressed by all the hills!

On said train – we were both beaming after the ticket inspector had been along to check our tickets. His enthusiasm and gorgeous English accent was infectious: “Good afternoon lovely people, please can I check your tickets on this fine day?” then each person got a different response for handing over their ticket: “Thanking you, cheers, much obliged, ta, thanks, excellent…”.

He really made a thing out of NOT saying the standard “thank you”, it was so cute.

I love my mother tongue and this was a perfect example of why. You can be so creative because we have so many words for everything. My inner geek was brimming with joy!

Then there was the food.

I introduced Senja to the delights of Scotch Eggs and proper British cider… not that Apple Bandit crap we get in the Netherlands!! (Where is that even made?)

We went to a typical English pub along one of the canals in Oxford and feasted on proper English pub grub.

Oh… and the people… *swoon*! It wasn’t just the train inspector who made me miss home. All of the people in the cafes, pubs and shops we went to were all so friendly and welcoming. I forgot what customer service was actually supposed to be like.

Since that visit, I hadn’t been ‘home’ for 5 months – since just before Christmas. That’s the longest I’ve ever been away from the UK. Normally I go back every 2 months or so, but for a variety of reasons (including not having a passport plus other trips we had planned etc) it just didn’t happen. And I’m not sure it was good for me. I’ve been pining.

In a way, I’m glad I was away for that amount of time because it’s given me the chance to realise and appreciate that I do miss my home country. Quirks ‘n’ all.

I’ve really missed my friends and family too. Sure, there’s Skype, but it’s just not the same… there’s something about meeting face-to-face and there’s also something about talking to people you have known all your life.

I have some great friends here in NL, I really do. I’m lucky. But there is something different about friends you have known for 3-4 years and people you have known 20+ years. The history, the gags, the nicknames, the days before Facebook and smartphones. We knew each other before all of that. Remember when you used to call each other’s house phones? Or a REALLY long time ago… knock on their front door!?

I miss those people. The people who know who I really am. Before I was a blogger and an expat. Just Hayley. Not Hayley, the one who moved abroad…

I realise that this isn’t one of my most structured or elegant posts (no shit Sherlock) and that it’s got a bit rambly so I’m wrapping it up now. I think I needed to write this for me, to acknowledge this feeling, and if anyone enjoys reading it then I’m glad I posted it here and not just in my diary 😉

I’m an expat who loves living in Holland. But I also love the UK. The eternal expat dilemma right…?

Luckily for me, in a couple of weeks I’m going ‘home’ for 16 whole days… and I can’t bloody wait!!

Have you ever been homesick? If so, how do you deal with it?

Hayley x

 

Weird things Dutch people do: hanging their duvets out of the window

I’ve caused quite a stir on my Facebook page today! And it’s all about the very exciting subject of… DUVETS! Hahahahaha! 😂

The Dutch Duvet Dangle

The Dutch Duvet Dangle

Lately, on my walks around the local neighbourhood I’ve noticed that loads of Dutch people are hanging their duvets out of the window and I’ve been taking photos purely for my own entertainment value. It’s not something that’s new to me, in fact I wrote a post mentioning it in Jan 2016 (15 Weird things Dutch people do) but today I decided to post some photos of what I like to call the “Dutch duvet dangle” and now there’s quite the conversation going on! 🙂

You can check out the discussion on my Facebook page but I thought I’d also write a quick post for my blog readers who may not be on the Book of Doom! So here goes:

Why do Dutch people hang their duvets out of the window? 

Apparently sunlight and fresh air kill bacteria and germs / bedbugs / dust mites… whatever. I haven’t actually Googled this yet but I have it on very good authority from LOTS of Dutch people so I’m just going to have to go with them on this one.

Apparently it also makes your sheets / duvet very fresh smelling. (Washing machine, no?)

Is it just a Dutch thing?

Hell no. According to my FB followers, they also do it in Romania, France, Greece and even Japan!

So why is it weird to hang your duvet out of the window?

Where do I start 😂😂

First, I think the thing that tickles me the most is that people do it out of their front windows for all to see. No shits given! As an English person, if we were to ‘air’ our duvets (which we don’t) we would at least hang them out of the windows at the back of the house or perhaps a washing line in the garden. We’re English: subtlety is key.

If our sheets are dirty, smelly, whatever then we just wash them! If the duvet is the problem… we wash that. And if it doesn’t fit in our washing machine we take it to the laundrette.

So who is right or wrong here?

No one. It’s just a cultural difference. And one that I personally find amusing…

I guess after all this discussion I’m going to have to try it myself (in the name of research, obviously!)

What’s your take on it? Do you hang your duvet out of the window?

Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m off to dangle my duvet out of the window and see what all the fuss is about! 😉

Hayley x