Travel

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

 

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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

 

 

An alternative way to explore Amsterdam

I used to think that the best way to explore Amsterdam was on foot. In my opinion, it’s definitely not by bike! But since taking two boat trips in Amsterdam last year, my mind has been firmly changed!

My first proper boat trip in Amsterdam (excluding the drunken times late on Queen’s / Kingsday when it was dark and blurry) was in August last year when my English friend came to stay. One of the Dutchie’s best friends has a boat, so he offered to take us out for the day. Literally the best day I’ve ever had in Amsterdam!

Amsterdam by boat

Amsterdam by boat

Our friend is a born and bred Amsterdammer, so he navigated the canals with ease while we sat back and relaxed, enjoying the views and drinking chilled white wine! Absolute bliss!

Amsterdam by boat

So when the lovely Marcel from Mokumboot contacted me out of the blue shortly afterwards, asking if I’d like to use one of their boats for me and up to 7 friends, I jumped at the chance!

It was tough deciding who to take, but my parents came over in November with two of their friends, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to show them a different side to Amsterdam. They had all visited the city before, but none of them had been on a boat trip – so we set sail with Captain Dutchie at the wheel! (I was much too much of a wuss to drive the boat myself!)

Mokumboot

Mokumboot

We picked the boat up from Mokumboot Oost which is conveniently located just a 5 minute walk from Brouwerij ‘t IJ. (A brewery next to a windmill – an Amsterdam institution! I highly recommend that you visit! Maybe after the boat trip though, eh?)

It was a slightly different kettle of fish to our adventure in August… in that it was freeeeeeezing! So much so that my iPhone actually died halfway through the trip and we had to go to a pub to warm up!! But at least it mean the canals were empty! We only saw a couple of other boats during our 2-hour cruise.

Mokumboot

Mokumboot Amsterdam

The best thing about seeing Amsterdam by boat is that you get a totally different perspective! You can take photos that you just wouldn’t be able to on foot.

Amsterdam

Mokumboot Amsterdam

Mokumboot Amsterdam

At the end of our trip, we were treated to a spectacular sunset (*pats herself on the back for exceptional planning*)! The perfect way to end the day!

Mokumboot Amsterdam

Mokumboot Amsterdam

Would you be brave enough to drive a boat around the Amsterdam canals? Or have you already done so?

Hayley x

 

Total blogger transparency: I was given complimentary boat hire without pressure to write a post. I am writing this post because I LOVED it. All opinions and witterings are entirely my own. 

 

21 places to visit in the Netherlands (that aren’t Amsterdam)

Hi! *waves* 🙂

So… my plan is to write about all these places individually, if I haven’t already, but that might take a while… and you know how I love a good list!! So in the meantime, here’s a list of my favourite places to visit in Holland! How many have you been to?

1. Amersfoort

I have definitely overlooked Amersfoort in the past, but this is soon to be rectified! It’s perfect for an afternoon of wandering and/or if you want to combine a city trip with some shopping. Make sure you visit Koppelpoort, the Medieval city gate. (I took my friends here last year and nearly forgot it!! Doh!)

Koppelpoort, Amersfoort, The Netherlands

Koppelpoort, Amersfoort

2. Arnhem

Arnhem is situated close to the German border – and that’s the precise reason we’ve been there – on the way to Germany! It’s also close to Hoge Veluwe National Park (see point 11.) and Nijmegen (point 15.) so it’s the perfect destination to combine with other trips!

3. Delft

Delft is sooooo pretty. I really loved my first visit here and I’ve been dying to go back ever since. You’ll probably recognise the name from the famous Delft blue pottery which comes from the area.

Delft

4. Domburg

Domburg is a seaside town in Zeeland which is probably about all the explaining I need to do. Beach, seafood, more beach, more seafood. It’s lovely. You should go.

5. Giethoorn

Giethoorn is a tourist paradise, so it can get pretty overcrowded… but if you go in shoulder season (April/May or September) you should miss the worst of the crowds. It’s mostly a car-free village, known for its boat-filled waterways! Hire an electric boat and go on a self guided tour around the “Venice of Holland”.

Giethoorn

6. Gouda

You’ll probably recognise the name because of the world famous cheese – and if cheese is your thing – get yourself there on a Thursday for the weekly cheese market. (Open from April until August.)

Gouda, the Netherlands

7. Groningen

I finally made it to Groningen!!! My friend Sophie from Feast with Sophie used to live here, so along with Senja from Little House in Utrecht, we went exploring there last Saturday. I’ve got to say: believe the hype! I liked it so much I want to go back in the summer once the weather is a bit better. It’s got a studenty vibe similar to Utrecht (I’ve never seen so many colourful bikes) but then with more canals and boats!

8. Haarlem

Come here if you want to go shopping! Cute town which seemingly always has a market going on! (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday!) Be sure to try Viqh wine bar and Jopenkerk brewery! The latter sells BEER BITTERBALLEN! Need I say more?

IMG_3295

9. Harderwijk

Known for the Dolfinarium, there’s more to Harderwijk than just a sea life attraction – so I’m told! This is somewhere I definitely need to revisit.

10. Hilversum

Ha ha ha. It had to be done! So, I’m 100% biased on Hilversum. But if you find yourself in ‘t Gooi, come and have a look at the nature and the Foodhall (MOUT) at least. There’s also a market on Wednesdays and Saturdays on the main market square. Plus loads of bars, restaurants and shopping… we even have a Primark!!! ❤

MOUT Foodhall, Hilversum

11. Hoge Veluwe National Park

One of my favourite places to go when I’m in a nature mood! Which these days, is quite often. As part of the park’s entry fee, you can hire bikes at no additional cost. It’s a great way to explore and you can cover much more ground than if you were on foot. The bonus is there are no cars or any other traffic, you only need to avoid pedestrians and other bikes – so it’s perfect for tourists or those less comfortable on two wheels!

Hoge Veluwe National Park

Hoge Veluwe National Park

12. Hoorn

Hoorn is so pretty! But then again, aren’t most places near water? 🙂 This place will always have a special place in my heart as it’s one of the first places I visited in the Netherlands on my own.

13. Kinderdijk

With a whopping 19 windmills (that’s 6 more than Zaanse Schans) this is without a doubt my favourite place to see molens! You can easily spend a few hours walking around and then relax in the friendly on-site cafe afterwards.

Kinderdijk

14. Leiden 

Predominantly a University town, Leiden is a nice place to visit if you’re in Zuid (South) Holland. As well as Molen de Valk, there are botanical gardens plus a lively food & drinks scene. The best way to explore is on foot, or via a canal tour. It’s also close to Katwijk aan Zee if you fancy combining it with a beach trip!

Leiden, The Netherlands

15. Nijmegen

Another one on my ‘places to go back to’ list, Nijmegen’s Grote Markt is one of the prettiest market squares I’ve seen. And I’ve been to lots of Belgian cities!!

16. Renesse

We visited Renesse in April 2017 over the Easter holidays and immediately fell in love. The beach is 13 miles long and is dotted with bars and restaurants so you can walk and bar hop to your heart’s content. The town itself is picturesque and has a great vibe to it. Over the summer it becomes packed with holidaymakers, but visiting off peak will ensure a more pleasant experience! I recommend Grand Cafe Helder (seafood) and Wijnbar BRUT (everything)!

Foodie delights in Renesse

17. Texel (or any of the Frisian Islands really…)

The Waddeneilanden (known in English as the Wadden Islands, Wadden Sea Islands or Frisian Islands… come on people, pick one!!) are popular and with good reason! Texel is the biggest and most popular island, but my aim this year and beyond is to visit at least one of the other islands: Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland or Schiermonnikoog. The Dutchie used to go to Terschelling loads when he was a kid, so that’s my first priority!

18. Utrecht

I love Utrecht (as you might have heard!!) and I visit all the time. Probably once or twice a month. It’s Amsterdam’s cooler, younger sibling! My fave places to go: Kimmade, Beers & Barrels, Konnichiwa, Daen’s, Blackbird Coffee & Vintage, Jozef, Sla, Bagels & Beans… I could go on… or I could get my arse into gear and write a whole post about it…

19. Zandvoort

The best beach I’ve been to in the Netherlands so far. For drinks and a chilled out vibe head to Ubuntu and for delicious seafood go to Hippy Fish. A dedicated post about the best beaches in Holland is coming soon! (I hope!)

20. Zaanse Schans (and Zaandam)

Totally touristy, but fun! Lots of windmills, clogs and cute Dutch houses. And if you’ve travelled all the way here already, you might as well visit Zaandam briefly as well to see the ridiculous looking Inntel Hotel!

Inntel Hotel, Zandaam

Inntel Hotel, Zandaam

21. Zwolle

It’s tiny, but good things come in small packages, right? My nephew studies here, hence why it was on our radar. Known locally as Zwollywood, this is another vibrant student town. (Actually I just Googled it and it’s a city.) Anyhoo, if you go make sure you make a stop at Brasserie Jansen for “de lekkerste bitterballen van Zwolle” (their words – the tastiest bitterballen in Zwolle). I haven’t tried all the bitterballen in Zwolle (yet) so no comment… 😉

Where else would you add to the list? (Maastricht.. I know, I know, I *HAVE* to visit this year!!)

Hayley x

Leiden in pictures

I was looking through some old photographs last night and found some rather cute ones I took of Leiden in April last year. I’ve not got a lot to say about Leiden to be honest as I’ve only been twice. It’s a nice place to go and wander around for a few hours as it’s very pretty, but I personally didn’t think there was that much to do.

Still, if you’re in the area I think it’s worth having a look… but I’ll let the photos do the talking and let you decide for yourself:

Leiden, The Netherlands

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Leiden, The Netherlands

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Leiden, The Netherlands

Leiden, The Netherlands

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Leiden, The Netherlands

Leiden, The Netherlands

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Leiden, The Netherlands

Leiden, The Netherlands

What do you think?

Have I persuaded you to visit Leiden?

Hayley x

20 things that happen when you have visitors over to the Netherlands

Trying hard not to trample the tulips...

Trying hard not to trample the tulips…

We’ve all been there. Your friends or family want to come over and visit you! YAY!

“Where do you want to go?” (You’re hoping for aaaaaanything but Amsterdam.)

“Amsterdam…?”

*sigh*

“OK. You know there’s more to Holland than just Amsterdam though, right?” “Oh but I reeeeeally want to see Anne Frank’s House…”

So, you end up going to Amsterdam for the three-hundred-and-forty-first time. It’s lucky I fucking like Amsterdam, you think through gritted teeth. And then the following happens:

1. First they complain about how steep the stairs are. EVERY TIME. The buildings are narrow, stairs are narrow, that means they’re steep. Get over it you stair loving freaks!

2. “What would you like to see while you’re over here?” “Oh… nothing in particular.” LIES!! What they actually want to see: coffeeshops, weed, space cake, prostitutes, Anne Franks’s house, windmills, tulips… FFS Susan, it’s October!! There are no fucking tulips in October!!

3. You show them what they actually should see: canals, architecture, Vondelpark, the Skylounge, Jordaan, street art, Foodhallen, Brouwerij ‘t IJ and they realise you’re the Queen of everything and they should’ve just let you plan the itinerary in the first place.

4. They marvel at how good the public transport system is. Like, I know bitch… that’s why I live here 💁🏻

5. You make them taste bitterballen. They fall in love and want to eat bitterballen at every available opportunity from now on. Oh and kaasstengels.

6. They are in awe of how everyone speaks such good English, but still want you to order *everything*… in Dutch. They look at you like you’re from another planet and are hooked on you performing your wizardry in real life.

7. They think you know the answer to *every* question about the country. “What are Dutch roofs made out of?” Like seriously dude, I know I live here but I’m neither a builder, roofer nor an architect! Google it FFS. “What kind of tree is that?” Ditto being a gardener or a frigging conservationist! I just live here!

8. They fancy going on a boat tour, but you gently persuade them that sitting on a huge canal boat with 50+ other people just isn’t authentic, neither is hiring a pedalo (non-tourists would rather cut their right arm off!) and your mate who owns a boat is at work – so a walking tour it is!

9. You get them to try stroopwafels and they buy approximately 97 packs to take home with them.

10. They stare in wonderment at the poffertje man and his amazing flipping skills (and are slightly bummed by the fact they can’t take poffertjes in their suitcase).

11. You decide you’ve been too nice so far and make them try haring. Pure evil… wahahahaha.

12. Ditto licorice. But because you call it drop – they’re stupid enough to try it! Hee hee 😀

13. You take them to the SkyLounge for prosecco and more bitterballen, and pay, because the prices are eye-wateringly expensive! (We’re talking €4.50 for a WATER!!) But it’s all worth it for that Pretty Woman moment when you see the flash of excitement in their eyes as you get in the lift and push the button to the top floor. (Without the American prostitute, obviously.)

14. They want to go in every Bulldog and/or Irish pub they walk past but you distract them with promises of more bitterballen. Over my dead body!

15. You are constantly on suicide watch as they inadvertently stumble into cycle lanes – completely oblivious to angry Amsterdammers who want to knock their block off.

16. They casually suggest hiring bikes and you casually reply “HELL NO!” Ask me again when you’ve lived here 3+ years, can actually ride a bike AND you’re not full of hipster beer and joints.

17. To ease the pain, you take them to FEBO and they almost come in their pants.

18. They want to go to the sex museum so you roll your eyes and begrudgingly pay €4 to have your picture taken with the human-sized veiny penis AGAIN.

19. They also want to go to a live sex show but you draw the line at spending €50 for watered down vodka and ladies pushing ping pong balls out of their laa-laa.

20. On the train home, they declare that Amsterdam is the best city in the world ever. And you agree, wholeheartedly.

***

Do you have any to add? What funny things do your visitors do when they come over to visit?

Disclaimer: I’m actually a very pleasant and patient tour guide to all my friends who come over to visit. If you’re reading this, dear friends: I don’t think you’re stupid, just English. 

Love,

Hayley x

24 hours in Leeuwarden

Leeuwarden Street Art

Nope, I haven’t forgotten… the 12 provincies challenge is still firmly in action. I haven’t written much about it (yet)… but behind the scenes, I have been visiting more of Holland than most Dutch people probably have!

Last week we ticked Friesland off the list! 🙂 Ideally, I would have liked to go to one of the islands – I’ve only been to Texel so far – but we only had limited time (and funds) so decided to stay on the mainland and visit the capital of Friesland instead.

I’m probably going to offend a lot of Leeuwarders now… but I thought Leeuwarden was just ok. Average. Sorry guys.

It reminded me a little of Utrecht without all the cool shit. Read: hipsters.

I don’t want to upset people who love Leeuwarden, honest, but I’ve got to be real. If people came to Hilversum and were disappointed, I’d get it. I know that I view Hilversum with rose tinted spectacles because it’s my adopted hometown.

When I was searching online for things to do in Leeuwarden (in both English and Dutch) it was slim pickings. I get it now. There’s not that much to do!! Hence why no one has written about it!

That’s not to say that we didn’t have a lovely time. We did. The people we met were lovely. (They did have very funny accents though, like a mix of Dutch and Norwegian. Friesland has it’s own official language!) The wine and food we had was lovely… so do go there if you just want a lovely time. If you want a fucking aaaaaamazing, staggeringly awesome time – go somewhere else! Amsterdam, Utrecht, Renesse, Zandvoort… I’m looking at you.

I’m glad I went, but I wouldn’t be climbing over myself to go back, nor do I recommend it as a must-see in Holland.

However, *if you do find yourself in the capital of Friesland*… here are my tips:

De Walrus

Trip Advisor to the rescue, you little beaut. This place was rated highly and praised for its wine. Sold!

Delicious wine and Dutchman's elbow

Delicious wine and Dutchman’s elbow

It didn’t disappoint. To go with our delicious wine, we also ordered a lil side of chips. Which turned out to be frigging massive! I’m not complaining. They were delicious.

Gouverneursplein 37, 8911 HH Leeuwarden | dewalrusleeuwarden.nl

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Chips, jalapenos, red onion, pulled pork and cheese sauce. AKA chips on steroids. They were amazing!

Sjoddy wijn & spijslokaal

Definitely not shoddy! (Sorry, had to get that one in there! My Dad would be proud…)

Yummy mussels, friendly advice, trendy decor. A little pricey, but average for a wine bar in my experience. I’d go again (if it wasn’t in Leeuwarden!)

Druifstreek 55, 8911 LH Leeuwarden | sjoddy.nl 

Sjoddy wine bar, Leeuwaarden

Leeuwarden Lounge

I found out on TA that this place is owned by two brothers, with their Mum as the chef (she has now retired, but we were told the new chef uses all of her original recipes). One of Oma’s dishes is still on the menu too.

Leeuwarden Lounge

One of said brothers was our waiter for most of the evening, a very friendly chap who chatted to us in between courses. Highly recommended!! Excellent prices and the food is divine! Neither the Dutchie or I had ever tasted Afghan food before, but we will be looking out for it in future. Yum!! I can’t really recommend a dish in particular because everything was so good.

Also, voor de liefhebbers… they have shishas for after your meal.

Korfmakersstraat 13, 8911 LA Leeuwarden | leeuwardenlounge.nl

 

‘Sightseeing’

Top things to do in Leeuwarden: Fries Museum. We didn’t go because I already know everything there is to know about chips! 😉

De Oldehove is an unfinished church tower in the medieval centre which apparently leans more than the tower of Pisa in Italy. I couldn’t get the Dutchie to pretend to hold it up, so here it is in all its boring glory: De Oldehove, Leeuwarden

Boomsma Museum – we had planned on going here and tasting some of the brown stuff. (Beerenburger for you uncultured slobs out there.) But when we walked in it was busy and smelled like old people, so we went to the pub instead.

Canals and Historische binnenstad – does what it says on the tin really. It’s just nice to have a little mosey around the small streets and enjoy the architecture.

Leeuwarden

Leeuwarden

Leeuwarden

Red light district – no photos, obviously. (It’s illegal.) I was surprised to see that Leeuwarden even had a red light district! It was pretty ropey to be honest, as you might expect. But still worth a peek for the curious Englishwoman who still can’t get her head around legalised prostitution.

Leeuwarden by night. A photo NOT of the red light district.

Leeuwarden by night. A photo NOT of the red light district.

Where to stay 

We stayed at the Bastion hotel, nothing fancy but it did the job.

It was super clean, had free parking, free wifi, a fridge and tea and coffee facilities and was only a 20 min walk from town. If you walk the right way that is!! It took us almost an hour because we are morons and went completely in the wrong direction! 😀

Have you been to Leeuwarden? Did you love it, hate it, or were you just a bit indifferent towards it like me?

Hayley x

First few months of the 12 Provincies Challenge and why I haven’t been writing lately

Hello and Happy Sunday!

I normally have my ideas (especially connected to writing/work) when I’m in the shower (TMI?) and today is no exception. My brain is literally buzzing with so many ideas. And I realised I haven’t written anything in like, forever.

My massage lady (a newish addition to my life) says I have a creative block. As in I’m not creating anything so I’m blocked. That sounds way too hippy to me. But maybe she’s right.

I haven’t been writing because I haven’t felt strongly enough about anything to write about it. I thought I’d come home from my Asia trip and be writing 100+ blog posts but they just haven’t come. They take sooooo much time and that’s something I haven’t had a lot of lately. Since we got back I’ve been working loads (to make up for my 2.5 month absence) we also bought a camper van (more travels coming soon!!) and a new HOUSE!! Yes, we are those crazy all or nothing people.

So, excuses excuses. But it’s not just time… My Britishness means I constantly want to apologise if things aren’t good enough and I’m a Virgo so I want everything to be perfect. My writing is FAR from perfect. I know that, but this quest for perfection is holding me back.

I have to take my own advice, like I did with speaking Dutch and just fuck it. (Old post: Learning Dutch is fucking hard)

I can’t always write about things that you want to read. Sorry. I mean Dutch people are funny and that, but there’s only so much you can go over the same ground. I want to write about travel and food and maybe a little interior design stuff here and there, seeing as we’re going to be redecorating a whole new home. You want to read about crazy Dutch people and expat struggles.

Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you are interested in other things. One of my favourite ever blogs (hannahgale.co.uk) covers lots of subjects. I read all of her mental health posts, travel posts and home decor posts. I always skip the fashion ones because it simply doesn’t interest me. We have completely different body shapes and tastes. I know lots of people do read (and love) her fashion posts, but they’re not for me.

So I guess what I’m asking is for you to do the same. For me to carry on writing, I need to do ME.

So please, if it interests you, carry on reading and if it doesn’t – skip it 🙂

Thanks in advance and here’s the post I actually wanted to write today…

First few months of the 12 Provincies Challenge 

I’m almost 4 months into my 12 provinces challenge and I’ve ticked off the following:

Groningen
Friesland
Drenthe
Overijssel
Flevoland
Gelderland: Arnhem 
Utrecht: Kasteel de Haar (Haarzuilens)
Noord-Holland
Zuid-Holland: Delft, Scheveningen, Lisse, Noordwijk, Katwijk
Zeeland: Renesse
Noord-Brabant
Limburg

I also went to Utrecht and Amsterdam multiple times but I’m not counting them as I go all the time… I’m also not counting Nuenen in Brabant (where we picked up the camper van from) or Zaandam, again – I’ve been there loads. Or Huizen, Laren, Loosdrecht or Kortenhoef as they’re all too close to home!

But 4 months down and 4 provinces ticked off sounds pretty good to me.

I may or may not get round to writing individual posts about all these places… but if not, here are some edited highlights 🙂

Arnhem – January 2017

Ok, Arnhem was a bit of a cheat because we had limited time there on our way to Germany… so I should definitely revisit Gelderland (and Arnhem) later in the year. But it does deserve a mention because I had my first bitterballen of the 2017 there! And also there was a snowman. So…

Bitteballen in Cafe Meijers, Arnhem

Bitterballen in Cafe Meijers, Arnhem

Snowman in Arnhem

Snowman in Arnhem

Kasteel de Haar – April 2017

Sooooooo pretty! And by far the most impressive castle I’ve seen. (I still need go to that Instagram-famous German castle too!) But really, if you’re in or near the Utrecht area it’s worth going for a stroll around the grounds. And FREE! 😀

Kasteel de Haar, Utrecht

Kasteel de Haar, Utrecht

Delft & Scheveningen – February 2017

We went to both places in one day when my sister and niece were visiting back in Feb. I’m not gonna lie… I don’t like Scheveningen. It’s so busy/touristy and overpriced! There are lots of better Dutch seaside resorts. (Coming up…)

I loved Delft though!! And want to go back asap! If anyone has Delft tips for me… please leave a comment below. I’d be extremely grateful 🙂 🙂

Oude Kerk, Delft

Oude Kerk, Delft

Delft

Delft

Lisse – April 2017

We also had tourists, I mean friends, over in April… so we took them to see the flower fields in Lisse.

Tulip fields, Lisse

Tulip fields, Lisse

Don’t be a dick and trample the tulips or pick them! Pretty please.

Noordwijk & Katwijk – April 2017

Two lovely seaside towns (which are both a lot nicer than Scheveningnen!!)

In Katwijk I had the best kibbeling I’ve ever tasted in my 3 years of living here – from a seafood stand along the promenade.

Kibbeling in Katwijk

Kibbeling in Katwijk

Garnalen kroktjes in Katwijk

Garnalen kroketjes in Katwijk

Rose garnalen in Katwijk

Roze garnalen in Katwijk

Not the best pic… but here’s the food stall in question 🙂

Katwijk

Katwijk

And we had to take this one for the Dutchie’s Mum, Willy!

Katwijk

Meanwhile over in Noordwijk we went on our first camping trip in Janis. (Named after the Janis Joplin documentary, Little Girl Blue.)

Camping in Noordwijk

Camping in Noordwijk

We stayed at Camping Op Hoop van Zegen which was one of the closest to town but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are a silver fox. Literally the dullest/quietest campsite ever!

Bitterballen in Noordwijk

Bitterballen in Noordwijk

Noordwijk itself was great though and I recommend Branding Beach Club which is currently #1 on Trip Advisor. Average bitterballen but the seafood platter was great, if a little overpriced. You are sat ON the beach though… so 100% worth it. Oh and make sure you book a table! They’re rammed!!

Sunset at Noordwijk

Sunset at Noordwijk

I never used to get sunsets when I was younger (my friends berated me one summer in Ibiza) but now I am fully on board!! Stunning!

Renesse – April 2017

Last, but certainly not least is Renesse… we went here for 3 nights over Easter and loved every minute of it. I’ve heard it does get very crowded in peak summer, so maybe best avoided during that time, but over Easter it was pleasantly populated 😉

De Haven van Renesse

De Haven van Renesse – nice place to go for a drink

Oh, and guys… I have seen the future!! Mosselen kroketjes! Of course, I wish they were bitterballen, but they taste the same. So, so good. 11/10 seriously. Believe the hype. It’s worth going to Renesse just to eat these in my opinion…

Mosselen kroketjes at Grand Café Helder

Mosselen kroketjes at Grand Café Helder

And what trip would be complete without a chocomel and a slice of appeltaart after a long walk on the beach?

Chocomel and appeltaart, De Branding, Renesse

Chocomel and appeltaart, De Branding, Renesse

I hope the rest of the year measures up to these adventures! I love exploring Holland! 🙂 If you want to join in, please use the hashtag #12provincies and if you have any tips for me for the remaining 8 provinces: Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe, Overijssel, Flevoland, Noord-Holland, Noord-Brabant and Limburg – please do let me know!

Hayley x

12 Provincies Challenge

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© Erik Baas / Creative Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Hello and a belated Happy New Year! How is everyone!?

After my Asia trip, I’m not loving Holland to be honest – sorry, but it is soooo fecking cold here!! And anyone who knows me will know that I’m NEVER cold. I must be broken!

Anyway, in the spirit of being English, I’ll shut up and carry on. And I have just had an idea… inspired by the #Take12Trips challenge that lots of travel bloggers have been doing for a few years now…

This year I’m going to visit all 12 provincies (provinces – or regions if you’re English) of the Netherlands.

Here they are along with the Hoofdstad (capital) and town/city with the most inhabitants:

Groningen ~ Groningen ~ Groningen
Friesland ~ Leeuwarden ~ Leeuwarden
Drenthe ~ Assen ~ Emmen
Overijssel ~ Zwolle ~ Enschede
Flevoland ~ Lelystad ~ Almere
Gelderland ~ Arnhem ~ Nijmegen
Utrecht ~ Utrecht ~ Utrecht
Noord-Holland ~ Haarlem ~ Amsterdam
Zuid-Holland ~ Den Haag ~ Rotterdam
Zeeland ~ Middelburg ~ Terneuzen
Noord-Brabant ~ ‘s-Hertogenbosch ~ Eindhoven
Limburg ~ Maastricht ~ Maastricht

In January, I already visited Arnhem, Delft and Scheveningen – so that’s Gelderland and Zuid-Holland ticked off – but I reeeeeally want to go to Nijmegen this year so maybe I’ll do Gelderland twice. Why the heck not!

So far in February I’ve only been to Utrecht, but I don’t think that counts as I go there all the time! What other gems can I find in the Utrecht region?

I need your help please! It would be pretty ‘obvious’ to just to go to the capital of each province… so do you have any suggestions? What are your favourite towns/cities from each province? And most importantly, where can I get the best bitterballen in each place?

Doe je mee? Please feel free to join in! And if you do, use the hashtag #12provincies so I can follow along 🙂

Hayley x

Doei… for a little while…

Hi!

It’s been a while, I know. I’ve not been a blogger lately.

I could make a gazillion excuses and I could apologise for my absence (it’s taking every fibre of my being not to apologise… being English ‘n all), but I hate bloggers who do that… so let’s not be one of them!

Um, so yeah…

We’re going on an adventure!! 😀 😀

Bali

This is going to be me for 10 weeks, except the fact that this photo is of a dude…

For 10 weeks.

We’re going to be visiting Singapore, Bali, Kuala Lumpur, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.

It’s going to be a bit hard to write about mildly amusing Dutch shizz when I’m not in the country… so I guess I’ll be taking an ‘official’ break.

I’ve never had more than 3 weeks off work since I started my first job, so I’m really bloody looking forward to it!! We’ve been saving and planning for the past 3 years… so I guess you could say it’s the trip of a lifetime!!

If anyone has tips for us on the places above, they will be gratefully received!

And if you don’t give a flying fuck about travel and only want to read / talk about Dutch stuff… that’s fine too! Are there any posts or topics you want me to cover next year?!

Have a fantastic couple of months everyone! Happy Sinterklaas / Kerst / Oud en Nieuw in advance and tot 2017!!

Hayley x

PS – if you do give a flying fuck and would like to follow our adventures on Instagram, my travel account is Travel in Technicolour.